I grew up with a dachshund, so several years ago we decided to adopt one of these little tubular canine entertainment centers. One Sunday we found a dachshund advertised in the newspaper (which tells you how long ago this happened). My wife Carla and our daughter Amanda drove to the home of the sellers and returned with a 3 year-old miniature wiener dog named Ringo. I could not go with them because I had pastoral obligations, but I returned home before they did and opened the door to greet our new furry friend. Carla and Amanda were walking up the sidewalk with Ringo on a leash. Ringo took one look at me and went maniacally berzerk. He was terrified of me but also wanted to tear me from limb to limb. He was unmanageable, or at least as unmanageable as an eight pound dog can be.
We learned the back story. Ringo’s family of origin had bought him as a companion for their little baby girl. As babies do, she loved to grab Ringo by the ear or tail. As dachshunds do, Ringo would react by snapping at her or biting at her. The baby’s dad would instantly grab Ringo and harshly punish him. This routine went on and on until finally they could not control Ringo anymore and decided to find another home for him.
That dad and I happened to resemble each other.
I’ve always loved a challenge, so I decided to win Ringo over. I quietly sat down on the floor in the middle of the living room with my hands at my side. Ringo stayed as far away from me as possible, screaming at me in an ear-splitting bark while I softly spoke to him, a screwball dialogue that continued for hours with no progress. Finally Carla put Ringo in a kennel and we all went to bed.
The next day was a holiday so we resumed this shrill standoff. By late morning Ringo was inching closer to me without decreasing his volume. By early afternoon he was within touching distance. I continued softly talking to him and keeping my arms down as he screamed at me. By the end of the afternoon Ringo was standing on my lap screaming at me. He needed a mint. By early evening he was all barked out, and if I moved slowly I could carry him.
Overnight we became inseparable. Ringo had to be wherever I was and he tried to do whatever I was doing. For example, we decided to pull up the ancient green carpet that came with the house. Ringo decided to help. You haven’t lived until you have watched an eight pound dog grab carpet in his teeth and jump straight up in the air with it. We had to work fast, with tools, to match his pace.
I’ve never had a dog bond with me like Ringo did. I am glad I waited for him to come around. That 30-hour period with Ringo has countless times reminded me how similarly God in Christ has waited for me to come around.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul says, “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” Paul was instructing the Christ followers in Thessalonica to be like Christ in the way they related to broken and unredeemed people around them. We cannot patiently love people like Jesus does until we have responded to the patient love of Jesus ourselves. I am completely in awe of Christ’s willingness to wait for me to wear myself out, or to hit bottom, while all the while Christ never moved; Christ was in fact closer than my next heartbeat.
Christ loves us enough to accept us exactly as we are. Christ loves us too much to leave us as we are. And Christ does not give up on us.
Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.