I have two dogs – both cocker spaniels. Rascal is a “buff” colored American Cocker (I put “buff” in quotation marks because (a) I’m not sure what the name of his color actually is and (b) another use of the word “buff” is to denote someone who is incredibly physically fit — Rascal is not physically fit). Fionna is a mostly black field-bred English Cocker with some white on her chest, light brown on her rear, and grey on her muzzle: she looks like an old dog but she’s really only about five years of age. Rascal, on the other hand, is about 13 years old.
When we first got Rascal he was ten years old and storms freaked him out. They no longer do and, in addition, I am of the opinion that he is deaf. These may be related. I don’t know if it’s the sound of thunder that causes dogs to freak out during stormy weather, but if it is Rascal’s deafness may explain why he’s no longer a quivering mass of canine jelly during a storm. I’ve also heard that it is the change in barometric pressure, or the static electricity in the air that gets to dogs … but whatever it is it gets to Fionna now that we have her (she’s been part of the family for about three months).
We are currently in the midst of stormy weather. The third “cell” has just moved through with lots of wind, flashes of lightning (some quite close by), peals of thunder, and pelting rain. Fionna is not happy!
People are much the same. Usually the storms that get us all freaked out are not the physical ones but, rather, the emotional ones. Our “antennae” pick up the “vibes” of emotional confrontation at work, perhaps, and we turn into quivering masses of human jelly. Or maybe some political issue in an organization to which we belong (say, something like the question of whether to bless same-sex couples in the Episcopal Church – and other traditions) is causing us to be anxious. Or maybe just our own sensitivity to one other person and their emotional storms can increase our own sense of uncertainty and distress.
Whatever may be the cause, I think we humans can take a tip from both of my dogs. The best tip would be to emulate Rascal and simply pay no heed to whatever the cause of distress is. Of course, that might require emotional or spiritual deafness, which I’m not sure would be a good idea. So second best is to follow Fionna’s lead — find a comfortable place in the company of someone we love and trust and allow them to minister to and take care of us. But that’s very hard to do. Many of us find it’s easier to offer comfort, care and ministry than it is to accept it from others.
Nonetheless, that is something we must do and, it seems to me, the general failure of people to accept the comfort, care and ministry of others may be at the root of the storms we weather in the church. How much better off we would be if more folks were able to let others (even those they don’t necessarily know well or approve of) minister to them!