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Topic: Labels (01/05/04)
By Kathy Pollock
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I love mutts. I have a 90 pound German shepherd-something, a 65 pound black lab-something, and a 25 pound something-something. Lots of people are snobby about mutts. When I picked up the 25 pound something-something along with her littermates which had been dropped on the side of the road on a 95 degree day, one of my pedigree-elitist friends told his son he’d have left them in the weeds to die. Admittedly, this dog has some irritating qualities, not the least of which is that if left out at night, she will bark at anything that moves, and perhaps a few things that don’t if they look like they may attack our house. The biggest dog, Riley, has an enormous, vicious-sounding bark, but will quickly roll over if you just act friendly. Abby Labby would simply welcome you into the house and show you where the valuables are, or would if I had any. The smallest mixed-breed, however, makes up for her lack of size with the bravado of a lion. There is absolutely nothing that can shut her up if a stranger approaches and she barks just as loudly when one leaves.
I always feel a little embarrassed when people ask me what they are, especially Riley, who actually looks like he should be “something.” He has none of the ungainliness or oddly put together features that mutts sometimes have, so people always want to know “what kind” of dog he is. I usually mutter something like “he’s a German shepherd mix” or “he’s just a pound puppy.” What he actually is is an awesome animal. He has more personality than most animals (or people). He has amber-colored eyes that express dozens of emotions, loves to cuddle, pushes his way between my husband and me if we actually share an embrace, and has pitiful or baleful eyes when you make fun of him. It’s hard to share all that, though, when people just ask a casual question about him. “What kind of dog is he?”
People love to categorize things. It’s so much easier to say “I have a Dalmatian” than to say, “I have a large white dog with black spots. He’s muscular, looks great in a red collar, and is often pictured on fire trucks.” So we label things. We label people too.
I’m somewhat of a mutt myself. Sometimes the various aspects of my personality turn into oddities. They don’t add up to something measurable. When I ask my husband why he loves me, he always responds that he loves my “orneriness” and my “big heart”. Like a terrier mixed with Great Dane, those two qualities don’t always cooperate with each other. As Paul said in Romans 7:19 “For the good that I will to do, I do not do: but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” For years, I fought the “softer” side of myself, seeing it as weakness if I cried or let someone know the “real me.” On the other hand, I’ve also suffered when I’ve said or done something hateful, and the more sensitive side of me hated that I had hurt someone.
God loves mutts. Not one person that I’ve ever read about, except perhaps Enoch, was easily categorized. The people that God used the most were spiritual mutts, having some wonderful qualities, but some pretty disturbing ones as well. He used murderers, fisherman, tax collectors, prostitutes, shepherds, and evil kings to accomplish his purposes. His best friends rebelled, denied Him, lost their tempers, conceived children out of wedlock, and betrayed Him. His only “pure-bred” was a God-man named Jesus.
Although I love mutts, I also recognize that there are some characteristics in dogs that are not desirable, and must be addressed. If you have a pitbull-rottweiler mix, you have to make sure that the puppy is well-socialized, and watch for any aggressive tendencies. You don’t allow the animal to become what might essentially be their own nature. You refine the good qualities in the animal, and work to eliminate the bad. If you have control over the situation, and aren’t just making an emotional decision to pick a puppy up out of the weeds, you might not even introduce those breeds to each other.
So it is with people. We come to Christ as mutts, and He is anxious to use us even though we may not be labeled as any particular breed by those around us. But it is not enough for us to say “Well, that’s just my nature.” Instead, we allow the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of His Word to refine those things which need refining, and eliminate those things in us that don’t measure up to His Word. This is not accomplished by a legalistic comparison of ourselves with others according to outward appearance and the traditions of men, but a submission of ourselves which says: “I may not ever look like John Q in the pew beside me, but I will allow God free access to those things which make me me, and also give Him permission to eliminate those things which make myself an enemy of God.”
If you’re a mutt like me, and not easily categorized as a “mature Christian”, whatever that is, or a spiritual giant, or a prayer warrior, or a gifted teacher, don’t put yourself in the pound: unless, of course you know that someone ornery with a big heart is waiting to come get you out. Submit yourself to God. Resist evil. Find someone to mentor you that believes in you and the transforming power of God. Don’t limit yourself by your lack of pedigree, and don’t compare yourself to those around you who seem more refined and easily labeled.