We used to have two dogs, poodle/Pekinese mixes, named Bill and Ted. Bill was fairly laid back, except for when possums (possui?) and field mice invaded our house after a developer plowed up the field across the road from our house. During those onslaughts, he GRRR-ded for battle (get it?). (When confronted, possums, of course, play possum, although one day he cornered a possum who was, apparently, a WWE fan. That day, Bill and the possum faced off with lots of hissing and bared teeth, but parted ways with mutual respect, as Alphas often do if the whole process is allowed to play out.) Bill was a cool little dog.
Ted, on the other hand, was the most annoying mutt ever. He either feared or disapproved of everything. Many dogs are afraid of fireworks. He was afraid of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Most dogs hate thunder. He growled at microwave popcorn. Any dog will bark at a squirrel. Ted barked at a case of bottled water. True story.
When Ted finally went to meet his maker (the same company that makes Lady Gaga’s clothes, I suspect), I didn't exactly dance for joy, but I did treat myself to a celebratory ice cream cone. When we moved into a new house, I just knew my wife wouldn’t want a dog on her new carpet, on her new bedspread and throw pillows, or messing up her new back porch. So naturally she came home with a puppy.
I crossed my arms, put my foot down, and shook my head “NO.” She put on pouty face and said, “I’ll take care of him. He won’t be any trouble. You won’t have to do anything. And he’s so cuuuuuute.”
So, we compromised. In a similar situation, Mark Twain mentioned that whenever he wanted one thing and his wife wanted something else and they did what she wanted, they called that a “compromise.” Since I like being married, we also called doing what she wanted a “compromise.” However, let me point out that she DOESN’T take care of him (at least not at 3 am when he wants outside), he IS a lot of trouble (groomer, vet, license, piano lessons), and he got over “cute” a long time ago.
This dog (Meeshell) is an idiot. Or IS he? I’m his chaueffer, concierge and personal shopper. When he barks now, it sounds more like “BWA-AH-AH…” to me. If I were as smart as Meeshell I’d have someone doing these things for me. Maybe I’M the idiot.
It’s easy to feel used, manipulated, taken for granted. None of us will get through life without realizing that someone- a friends, a kid, a co-worker- is taking advantage of us. On the other hand, none of us can honestly say we’ve never used, manipulated or taken advantage of someone else. Some people refuse to give to charities and will not help in volunteer efforts because they believe those organizations are just enabling people to be lazy, letting other people do their work or pay for their living.
As you know, Habitat for Humanity DOES NOT give homes away. Our families purchase their homes. They invest several hundred hours of “sweat equity” into the building of the home. We build a home in four months, working only on Saturday mornings. And our homes are less expensive, because volunteers support the work.
Do our volunteers ever feel manipulated? Probably. But choosing to be manipulated in the service of others is a fundamentally Christ-like value. The word “manipulate” has a Latin root- “manipulus”- which means “handful.” To be manipulated means you are “in hand,” or possibly “a hand.” St. Teresa of Avila had a wonderful message for Christians:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
God blesses us through our service. He trains us to be like His Son by prompting us to react compassionately
So, how smart is my wife’s dog? He certainly has me well-trained. Actually, my WIFE has me well-trained. I choose to be manipulated because I love her. I like to think Jesus has me trained well enough to be manipulated as a show of His love.