My first dog was an adorable Shetland Sheepdog that I thought was amazing. Smart and cute, but when I had company over, he used to exhibit the strangest behavior. If anyone would leave the room to say go to the bathroom, he would leave the party area and follow them to the bathroom, where he would plant himself until the guest was finished in order to make sure that he or she rejoined the pack. He really reminded me of the parable of the sheep that we read at church today in Matthew 18:
My Shelty was a lot like the Bible's picture of a shepherd with his sheep in this way. He would not relax or let down his guard until my guest rejoined the rest of the group. He was more concerned about the well-being of the lost one, that straying sheep, than being part of the fun and games happening in another part of the house. But alas, the poor boy is no longer with us. He was replaced by a very different breed.
12 "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
My miniature poodle Bridgette, who also has a superior intellect for a canine creature, is quite different from Max in that she is uber-loyal to her master. Now, the Shelty was in fact quite loyal, but my poodle is borderline insane loyal. She won't even eat or drink when I'm away. To test the seriousness her allegiance, I once gave her a bowl full of her favorite treats and chews, and then went to the grocery store. When I returned, she had not touched a single one of her liver snacks, raw hides, chicken bits, etc.. That's how much she loves me, her master. She can't even eat when I'm gone.
Now, when I have people over, she is the total opposite of my former Shelty. She stays glued to my side or at my feet and has to be involved with every activity, whether watching a movie or having a discussion, she needs to be taking it all in -- from my lap, at my feet or in my arms. My room mate calls her "Velcro dog."
This might be kind of a stretch, but as I reflected on the personalities of these two buddies of mine, I couldn't help but think just a little about the story of Mary and Martha:
Jesus at the Home of Martha and MaryMary wanted to sit at Jesus's feet and was fully devoted to Him - to listening to and learning from Him, while he was present. Martha lovingly wanted to serve and work for Jesus and expected Mary to help her. Much has been written and pontificated about Jesus's rebuke of Martha by telling her that Mary has chosen better, that only one thing is needed, and that it will not be taken away from her, etc..
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
My take-away is that while Christians should develop a balance of both Mary and Martha styles, we cannot begin to be Martha-like without first spending deep devotional time basking at the feet of Jesus, being built up by listening to His teaching, through meditating on the Word, and partaking of the sacraments in His Body. Only once we have received His truth and love, can we effectively go about His Martha work of herding the lost and giving of ourselves for fellow believers.
That's kind of where thinking about poodles and sheepdogs led me. Weird, huh??