Grizzly: Changing My Image of God

After my last post, a friend wrote to me, “You’ve always been the first to tell me ‘Be willing to listen to God. Be willing to change.’”  I am eating my words.  My reply to her, “It’s easier to preach than practice.”  All week, since I wrote "Yes to Grizzly. Yes to God", I’ve asked for grace to live what I wrote.  It’s going to take that - a meal of divine grace -  to let go of my old standards and my former rituals.

Grizzly in the backyard fountain

Grizzly in the backyard fountain


My old life is Wally, the Schnauzer.  He weighs 22 lbs. and is knee-high. 

If the doorbell rings and I don’t want him to jump and bark, I  pick him up.  If he doesn’t come when I call him, I  go get him and put him in his kennel which is tucked quietly away in the corner of the laundry room.  Wally doesn’t shed and usually doesn’t smell unless he gets into something outside, where he only stays long enough to relieve himself. When he needs a bath, it’s ten minutes and one towel in the laundry room sink. If I fluff the tops of the sofa cushions where he perches during the day and I kennel him, we can host a party and he never makes a peep. It’s possible you could stop by for a visit and not even know I have a dog in the house. 


It is not so with Grizzly! 

I can’t conceal him.  He’s 92 lbs. His head passes my hip line and his ears are waist high when we are side by side.   His tail wags across the coffee table. He’s too long to turn around in the powder room; he has to back himself out.  If he plops down on the rug in the kitchen, I can’t stand at the kitchen sink or load the dishwasher without asking him to move or doing gymnastics over him. He smells. He doesn’t fit in a sink or bathtub in my house.  Bathing is an ordeal involving half a bottle of shampoo and a  plastic baby pool  in the backyard. He sheds. I bought a hairbrush for him that is more expensive than my own.  The Furminator is the name of it.  The reference to Arnold Shwarzenegger - Grizzly and and his fur -it’s not lost on me. He is a mammoth dog.  

His kennel doesn’t fit in the laundry room with Wally’s…or in any other room inconspicuously.  The first week we just put the very large wire structure in our main den, figuring we will sort out later where he is going to actually live.  By the second week, I decided to move it to my husband’s study where we sit in the evenings after dinner. Just moving the kennel through the house was a struggle; it is the size of a washing machine turned sideways.  My thinking was that he could be in his kennel in the room where we are in the evenings but where guests rarely go. It didn’t work.  The room is small, filled with drapes and rugs and upholstered furniture  and within a few days…well, his fragrance filled the room.  I dragged the kennel back to the main den. It doesn’t blend in with the decor or tuck neatly under a table. Grizzly’s residence is obvious as soon as you walk through the doorway. 

I  see what I was doing that second week. I was trying to get Grizzly to fit into my life.

He doesn’t. He’s too big.

Be willing to let your life change… I wrote. This is the message coming to me through this big dog of mine.

"What might you have to show me of yourself, O God, in my moments with this dog?” 

“What truth is coming to liberate me embodied in this shiny coat and running on these giant paws?  I enthusiastically prayed these questions that first week with Grizzly.  


But then I wanted to kennel him in an ‘out of the way’ place when I wasn’t desiring direct contact with him.  I wanted him to be clean, neat and unobtrusive.  I wanted him not to be so so large a presence, so life-changing. I wanted him to be quiet in his kennel, instead of whistling  and whining when I walk out of his sight.  

I’ve suspected for awhile that my image of God was changing. It’s a hard suspicion to live with because the new image isn’t clearly formed. I only know He is much larger,  a much greater presence than I once thought. He is obvious and life-changing, and he whistles when I turn my back to Him. He can’t be concealed in the back of the house and wants to be with me constantly.  I think I want this from God, my life transformed and His constant presence, until He brings it in such an embodied and concrete way, demanding of time and energy and resources, and then I wonder if I really mean what I pray. I suppose I want transformation without the mess of change and I want His presence without it being so obvious. 

My old image of a dog has been shattered. I can’t live with Grizzly in the same way I lived with my small dog, Wally. There is SO MUCH MORE of Grizzly and I have to accept all of him.

I pray for help. I seem to hear a whisper:  Take the largeness into your home, your life and your heart…with all its messiness, shedding, wet shakes, large paws and voracious eating.  Take it all…the parts you are yet to discover. Sure he’s imposing. He is in the way sometimes..but he is for your good. 

I look into his eyes - this beautiful, massive animal, whom I am still getting to know, created to be a guard and trained to be present to me.  His gaze communicates the intent of his heart and I trust he is for my good.