I jog the perimeter of the park and do mild attempts with a twenty-five pound kettlebell. The dogs do dog things prancing in the morning mist lit by a lone street lamp.
Soon two headlights creep up the gravel road along side the park putting the dogs into high alert. The dogs of rage have arrived. Nothing is said. The hour has come.
The dogs of rage burst into the small, secluded puppy area, a mere chain link fence away. They are kept in isolation. They cannot socialize. They give off an aura that incites confrontation and outburst of emotion.
The dogs on both sides of the fence thrust into attack running up and down along side the barrier, mouths foaming spewing a thick volley of doggy trash talk. It is a battle yet a game. It is a struggle for dominance fueled by anger of the deepest innermost rage to accomplish a seemingly sublime goal that in the end is insignificant and offers no benefit to the world about them. Kind of like football, come to think of it.
We let it play out and I thought about a man who always seemed to be contentious and on the attack. I saw him harshly confront a young lady over an innocent side comment she made the week before reducing her to tears. When I asked about this man people rolled their eyes and said he was just this way. A thoughtful brother told me that there was a part of this man that the Lord was working on that has merit and beauty.
I don’t know what made the man the way he is. But I did see him once break down and weep at the thought that he was reading the very words of Jesus. And another time I saw his generous spirit helping someone in need.
The dogs reached their cardiovascular limits. They lost interest in the fight and breathed heavily in the morning air. The big dog and the mid-sized backup dog followed me as we jogged down the hill to do another lap around the perimeter.
I’ve thought of the many times over the years where my mind fell into a bad place resulting in an abusive burst of angry rage hurting those about me and shaming myself. I thought I would be beyond this after all these years. I’ve explored various helps from physiological to psychological to spiritual and certainly have found some help in self-management, identifying triggers, trusting God’s benevolence, and realizing the broken pathways in my thinking.
Nevertheless, when Jesus freed the demoniac, the demons fled into the pigs and tumbled over the side of the cliff with a sense of finality. I think my demons still hide in the bushes waiting for an opportune time when I have my guard down.
I chatted with the owners of the dogs of rage, two sweet women. They rescued these two black dogs from abusive situations. The trauma was so bad that they will never be normal dogs. The insecurity and harsh reactiveness is, at least for now, hard wired. Yet each morning, the women look beyond the obvious exterior and see the beauty in two of God’s creatures.
That Sunday as we brought our broken and contradictory selves to the communion table, I heard this:
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch his treasure
Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom