One of my daughters recently added another pet to her household. It’s one of those tiny crossbred dogs called a chiweenie — a cross between a chihuahua and a dachshund. She’s a cute little thing, quite energetic and playful.
One day when I was visiting she was constantly wanting me to engage in a game of tug-of-war with her and her chew toy, or she would be crawling all over me looking for protruding fingers, shoelaces, or other interesting items on which to nibble.
I also noticed on that occasion the tense relationship between this new member of the family and the cat who resides in the house. We know all about the tendency for those two species not to get along very well. These two were no exception.
The cat wasn’t hostile to the point of attacking this little canine it towered over in size, but it obviously considered it a pest to be avoided. Whenever the chiweenie came up toward the cat to yap at it or try to grab its tail, the feline would back off and offer a clear hiss of warning.
But one morning last week when my daughter opened the door to let the dog out of its crate where it stays the night, not only did the dog emerge, but so did the cat. Apparently it had been snoozing unnoticed in the back of the crate when the dog was put in for the night, and they got locked in together.
The good news is they survived the ordeal. The only sign of conflict was a small spot on the dog’s nose where the cat may have swatted at him at some point. I don’t know if that nightmare experience has traumatized either pet or if it might open the door to a more cordial relationship between the two. Time will tell.
Imagine getting locked in close quarters with some person you don’t get along with well. What if you got stuck in an elevator for several hours with that annoying person at work? Or what if, in one of those winter storms we experienced this year, you had gotten snowed-in for several days with someone who considers you to be an enemy?
Similar happenings have occurred, where two conflicting individuals have been forced to spend time together, sometimes resulting in them almost driving each other crazy, and other times actually bettering that relationship.
There are going to be people with whom we don’t have a natural affinity. Due to personality differences or other issues, we may be like cats and dogs.
However, Jesus told us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us (Matthew 5:44). In other words, we still need to try to get along with those people and even seek to have a loving and gracious attitude toward them — the same kind of love and grace God shows to all people, including us.
I don’t think the answer is for Jesus to lock us up in a cage together. What is needed is a change in heart. And no, not just a change in the other person’s heart — but a change in my heart.
I need the Lord to fill me with more of His spirit of love and kindness. I need to realize how good God has been to me in spite of all my faults, sins, and annoyances to Him.
And I should pray for Him to help me possess and manifest that same spirit toward those big cats who keep hissing at me, as well as toward those little yappy chiweenies in my life.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.