The Dog you Need, Not the Dog you Want

I have a love/hate relationship with the Church. God either has a sick sense of humor, likes to mess with me, or is trying to teach me something.  The only logical explanation is that God is trying to teach me something I don’t really want to be taught. But why Them of all people? Aren’t they the problem to begin with?

Cesar Millan says: You don’t get the dog you want. You get the dog you need.  Bear with me, I’ve watched way too much Dog Whisperer lately.

On the show, there’s always these desperate owners who’ve adopted pocket-sized dogs who take over the entire family. They get them because they are cute. They dress them up, treat them like children. As a result, the dogs become 13-ounce Hitlers who dictate how the entire household functions. They bite them for getting up too quickly, for running the vacuum, for reaching to pet them too fast. They even bite the children as the owners look helplessly on, hostages in their own houses. Other dogs become fearful, anxious, and neurotic over normal sights and sounds. They hide under the bed and pee on themselves when the doorbell rings.

It’s exhausting. We can’t even go on vacation. Something has to change the owners weep into the camera.  If this doesn’t work, we have to put them down. 

But it’s never the dog that’s the problem. It’s always the owners. The dogs only reflect their owner’s dysfunctional state of mind. They take over the situation because the owner became weak and somebody had to run the show.

Cesar rehabilitates most of the dogs within a few minutes using only his calm, assertive energy. The dog realizes here is somebody who allows them to be a dog, so they surrender. The hard cases, he has to take away to his Doggy Rehab center for a few months. They always come home a completely normal dog, but some would revert back to their dysfunctional behavior as soon as they come back to their old stomping grounds because it’s not the dog that was the real issue—it was the owner. The dog changed. The human didn’t. Even though the owners practiced Cesar’s methods and moves, it was just mimicry. They hadn’t internalized that their dog was just a dog, that it needed to be just a dog and not a furry human in order for the relationship between pet and owner to be a balanced one.

I avoided the Church for so long. It was a dangerous place for me to be spiritually. It drove me away from God. It made me bitter and angry. I thought I had recovered, away from the source that had wounded me. I thought I was ready to return—that I had learned the difference between true Faith and the sharp fangs of pious religion that struck whenever I tried to embrace it. But, I wasn’t. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. 

But maybe it wasn’t the fault of the Church. Maybe I had dressed the Church up like it was God, treated it like it was the author and perfecter of my faith. Let those false beliefs take me hostage in my own life— even to the point where I let it wound my own children, while I stood helplessly by. I kept leaving then coming back, expecting a different experience, but every Church was still just a Church, holding up a mirror that showed what it looks like when you make an imperfect institution, filled with imperfect people, God.

Maybe, I got the Church I needed, not the one I wanted: one that cornered me in my own life and forced me to decide between putting it down completely or to finally wrestle control from it’s mouth  for good–control it should have never had in the first place— and lay it back at the feet of The One to whom it had always truly belonged.


“Denial, they say, stands for— Don’t even notice I am lying. Human beings are the only animals who are happily lied to by our own minds about what is actually happening around us.”
Cesar Millan

About Heidi Stauff

Ultimately ending up in Atlanta, Heidi's creative impulses followed many paths. She delivered middle-class, white-girl, angst to tens and twenties of Generation-Xers through the now defunct rock-band, Belljar. She designed hundreds of dresses for Disney-bound little girls. She birthed two babies she now homeschools, lost and then found her faith again, and writes about all of it in her free time: which is usually after midnight with a glass or three of wine.
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7 Responses to The Dog you Need, Not the Dog you Want

  1. I’m so glad you didn’t cut out church completely…I need you in my life! And obviously our boys need each other. So grateful for you and your family! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Denial, they say, stands for— Don’t even notice I am lying.” I’ve never heard that before. Very true! I struggle with putting God in person-shaped box, too, & it’s usually people I don’t like. HA! For real, though. I feel discounted or slighted by someone & eventually think, “well, they don’t like me,” & maybe they don’t, but that one instance begins to transform & grow until I’m feeling like many people don’t like me & I don’t belong… & if I don’t belong in church, if I’m not ‘good enough’ for church, then I must not be good enough for God yet. It’s demonic. He is extremely divisive & extremely convincing. I loved this, Heidi!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. H.M. Davis says:

    This is excellent! Ironically, our own church’s stated mission is to reach out to those who have been hurt by church – and my husband, son, and even myself have been hurt more by this place than by any other body of believers. Yet, even in the worst of it, God used it to reveal my tendency towards bitterness and resentment (among other things) and I’ve been able to repent. And He has kept us there – because sometimes the hurt is exactly what we need….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reading. Is your first name Hannah? Being an authentic artist and a Christian is really hard. Christians want to divide everything into “secular” and “nonsecular” when good art is only “Truth.” They only want sanitized versions of art, which is not truth at all but being pious. THAT is what has drove me away from the church. I came back after floating around in a mega-church here in Atlanta for 10 years that offered little sustenance. I joined a local church and now I’m feeling the need to flee again. Not only are you looked down on if your art is not “christian” enough but also because you are just a woman. It really is discouraging. I like your blog because it cuts through all that pious bullshit. Life is short and messy. There is not enough time to pretend it’s not.

      When I wrote this piece, I was still new to this church and trying to analyze my bitterness and resentment. Now I am back to fleeing it before it starts to get a hold on me again. If I can find a few authentic people that believe and call them friends, then at this point, that’s enough. There is no perfect church. I am not perfect. But for some reason, this issue keeps rearing it’s ugly head. Unless you totally dismiss all the hard truths in the Bible and join a “moose lodge” church than you are in for some pain.

      Liked by 2 people

      • H.M. Davis says:

        My first name is Heather. I’m not sure why I went with my initials – probably laziness. 😉

        I hate that about the church. I can certainly say that I was at a point of wanting to flee not long ago, but somehow we have ended up staying. It’s always hard, I think, because life is so messy. I have been incredibly blessed with some extremely authentic believers who have become great friends and I pray you can find some as well. In that group is a friend my own age who has been raised in a Christian household but has seen much of the darker side of life and even her own heart. Her mom, also a friend and a solid Christian woman, was raised in a cult and has an incredible perspective. I have openly spoken to both of these ladies about my hurt and bitterness, and they’ve been incredible at listening and guidance; the older lady in particular sharing her own stories and God’s redeeming power through it. And it’s stinking hard these days because so much of the Church is either so culturally acceptable that there seems to be no need for redemption or so self-righteous that there seems to be no memory that they, too, need cleaning up. I struggle with this swing in my own heart, and it is only by the grace of God that I ever find any balance – and of course, once I take my eyes off Him, I’m back to swinging from one extreme to the next.

        I hear you, for sure. It does seem difficult to find a body of believers that hasn’t made some attempt to scour the gore right off the cross. But for me, the harder thing seems to be seeing my own complicity in it…

        Liked by 2 people

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