What’s wrong with people? Are they so oblivious that they let their dog stay out in the cold all night?
After several minutes, I realized the rude interruption was not going to stop. Sleep was out of the question, so I considered several possible scenarios:
I could drive my car around the block and ring the neighbor’s doorbell. No. That would mean I’d have to get dressed and go out in the cold.
I could call the sheriff’s department. No, a barking dog is no way to burn my currency with the law.
Coming up with no ideas, but getting further and further from a decent night’s sleep, I dragged my body into the bathroom and opened the window. From my upstairs bedroom I looked way down onto the neighbor’s back yard. I hollered, “Shut up!”
I glanced down to where the neighbor’s dog should have been, but didn’t see any movement. Nor did I see any porch lights flick on.
Then sharply, the fog in my brain lifted and I recognized the bark.
That was my dog’s bark. But my dog was sound asleep in her bed outside my room. The reality of my mistake entered my brain:
Maybe she wasn’t in her bed.
I felt my thoughts screech out of their judgmental state and slide into chagrin. It was my dog, Chipotle, downstairs looking out the sliding glass door and barking wildly at a cat or a fox. Her bark was so loud that even though she was indoors, all the neighbors could hear her. I hollered for Chipotle to come up and I put her in my son’s room where she wouldn’t be distracted by things outside. Back in bed, I reflected on the lesson God had once again brought to mind:
Be careful when you judge another.
Though the New Testament tells us in a number of places not to judge our brother, this does not mean we should not judge at all. We must formulate judgments in order to know how — and how not — to live our lives. But in our judgment we must be cautious and discerning, not condemning.
Typically when we know the reasons people do things, we are more merciful. The Bible tells us tells us that we will all be judged, but mercy is the filter. As Christ offers us mercy, might we be that way as well. And when we come to our conclusions we must remember we do not know all the facts. Americans like to say, “But for the grace of God go I,” and the French say, “To know all, is to forgive all.”
Years ago, I went for an early morning jog. As I passed my neighbor’s yard, I grumbled to myself about the weeds in his yard. But then my eyes caught movement in the morning light. It was a man shuffling his trash cans to the curb — the effort took all his might. Later, I found out his lungs had froze while working in Antarctica during his military service. He could barely breathe and was on a transplant waiting list. Knowing the full story, I had nothing but mercy for my neighbor and his weeds.
This morning, during my prayer time, I challenged myself to take the phrase Love is patient and substitute my name for the word love. Lucille is patient. I felt like a liar so I asked God to help me make mercy my starting point!
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13 ESV