Dog Sled Theology…Since a good part of our country is inundated with snow, ice, winds, sleet, hail—you know, the junk that our “short month” of February can often bring—I decided to share a devotion from backgrounds Al and I and others have shared with us, regarding dog sledding.
First, back in Wisconsin (30 years ago) Al and I had a massive dog named Le Grimace, which in French, means the ‘happy frown.’ Grimmy, as we called him, was 158 lbs of pure muscle and a LOT of hair. He was a certified Alaskan Malamute/Alaskan White wolf breed. A friend of ours got him as a pup but when he was transferred to a city this 4-month old was already a behemoth and an apartment in a city was not for him! We fell for this gentle giant, and oh what a life we had with him.
We knew people who were professionals in raising dogs for dog-sledding. It was a lot of work and of course, who doesn’t get glued to the TV when the Iditarod is on—amazing! For us who lived in northern Wisconsin weather, the snow was a playground and Grimmy loved it. So, we had a make-shift sled so to speak, and he would haul us, Present-our German Shepherd, and all the trappings to go ice fishing. He loved hauling our nieces around as well, but he had a sense of humor about all of this which usually culminated in him dumping the sled and making you come after him!
It looks easy to get a bunch of dogs together, hook them to a sled and let them run, but we learned early on that there is a LOT more to the process, one of which we were not going to invest in but loved to see how it all happened. For instance, learning the commands needed, without that, dogs could get in huge trouble in situations such as unstable ice. Feeding them just the right foods that would give them the stamina to run long distances was paramount.
The most interesting part is none of this teaching is done in isolation! Every part of being a dog-sled trainer and owner is a team effort! If the dogs need to stop, they all stop or—you get the picture. If one of the dogs want to follow a deer running through the woods, well you get the message. Whether the journey was short or long, all of it was done together.
Another thing we learned which always has impressed me is, when dogs are harnessed together it changes them. Why? That is how they motivate each other to keep going and to use all their “together-power” to get through the long journeys of a race.
With only one dog that pulled a sled, we still learned about working together otherwise we were dumped a mile from home and everything we needed to go ice fishing was with Grimmy and the sled! We worked with him and always had fun, although he expected his rewards and that was to have a few tasty fresh-caught fish that we caught (bad breath dog!).
The writers of Hebrews would understand this non-isolation-work-together-process. In fact, in chapter 10:24-2 [ESV], it’s like a full description!
“And let us consider how to stir up one another
to love and good works, not neglecting
to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another, and all the
more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Are you one of those Christians who try their hand at being a lone wolf, living your faith privately and individually? I know a lot who do, but I can tell you sooner or later it doesn’t work. The ‘dog-sled’ will fall apart and you may be far from home and far from the help you need. God did NOT create us to live this way. That’s why the writers of Hebrews remind us that we are “called to gather” – and do it regularly!!
I’ve missed that in these pandemic times but certainly can understand why. Yet, God did not let us be isolated. Think: who created the Internet, the telephone, the postal service, the trees that make paper so we can send stuff? Our crazy world can throw all kinds of crap at us—yes I did use that word because sometimes that is what life can be like, but none of that crap sticks when you are held in the powerful hands and grace of a loving God.
God well knew this pandemic was on its way and to be honest, we had all we needed to NOT be isolated! Gathering on Zoom was better than no gathering, and honestly sometimes it was funny, especially if your tablet was sideways! OK, laugh, that is why I shared this and on Zoom we all laughed—together.
Friends, when we gather in community with each other whether it is by in-person or online, we are like those sled dogs, we learn together and together we hear the voice of the God who leads us in life—one mission at a time. We work as a team…how else could we accomplish “Kingdom work?”
So, to all those lone wolves out there, come home! Join the ‘howl of togetherness’ where you find encouragement and can encourage one another. That’s the only way you’ll run the race God has placed before you, AMEN!