God Up a Tree

Because my neighborhood is in more of a rural area than even a sub-urban area, there are some unusual things about living here. There are no covenants or neighborhood restrictions, and though there is a leash-law in our tiny community, the four police officers in town have better things to do than doggie-patrol, I guess. That means that all the neighborhood dogs have developed a sort of nomadic lifestyle, wandering into and out of the yards of our subdivision. That’s alright with most folks and their dogs, but Shalee is different.

Shalee is a Brindle Coated American Squirrel Dog. Yeah. That’s what I thought. She’s a beautiful dog, resembling a smallish Greyhound, but she is by far the squirreliest dog I have ever encountered…and dumb. She will run – Greyhound speed – straight at you and will not stop until she has careened into your legs causing you to collapse on top of her. Even if you’re standing still, it’s a sure bet that if Shalee is around, you’re going down. Here’s the dumb part. Down the road a bit, there is a small horse farm where Shalee decided to branch out. Shalee’s owners had only this to say, “We nearly bought a horse.”

That’s how Shalee came to be a prisoner of the invisible fence. She is, to my knowledge, the only convict in the neighborhood. It’s not as bad as it sounds since our lots have at least one acre, and Shalee happens to own the two giant oak trees that survived from when the subdivision was pasture land. She’s made good use of those trees now that they are her only companions. (Even the dogs won’t go near her. The little Dachshund that used to live with her has taken up residence with the neighbor behind us…no kidding.) Just this afternoon as I walked past my window, I saw Shalee sitting at the foot of one of the trees in her yard staring intently into its branches. There are no squirrels there (I mentioned dumb, didn’t I?), but you can’t tell her that! She is so focused on every rustle of leaf and bow of branch that no distraction could tempt her eyes to wander from that tree for even a glimpse. She sits like that for hours. And in that snapshot of her today I learned something from dumb-dog Shalee.

Shalee was engrossed in her task – the task of watching, waiting, listening. She was immersed in her undertaking, gripped by her duty, and captivated by the possibilities before her. She sat without moving (no small feat), her attention never wavering from what held her gaze. She was utterly focused on that tree, and in that moment I saw myself as I ought to be. As Jesus told Martha to be.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. - Luke 10:38-42

Though I hate to admit it, I am very much like Shalee before her first jolt, and I too deserve to be restrained by a strong electrical current much of the time. I am so busy running blindly into things and people, effectively clipping them off at the knees, taking on tasks too big for my britches, and generally making a nuisance of myself that no one wants to be around me. I nag. I worry. I complain. I’m critical and harsh. I’m uncontrolled. I’m unfocused. I am a whirlwind of useless activity that accomplishes nothing of eternal value.

Look at this snapshot from the verses above. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said (Luke 10:39). That’s what I saw when I glimpsed Shalee out my window, and my heart longed for the ability to sit with rapt attention at the feet of my Lord. I wished for the capacity for focused, unwavering anticipation and confident expectation to the exclusion of the world around me. Dishes can wait. Laundry can wait. Work can wait. I am listening to my Lord. It is the better thing.

Even if it takes a jolt or two, I pray that one day you might glimpse me through the window and find me sitting like Shalee, held spellbound, as if God Himself were in that tree.