Oscar pooped in the house again.
When Shannon and I lived in Oklahoma, we were around the house pretty much all the time. I worked from home and Shannon worked at the church across the street, so our fur-baby Oscar got used to having us around.
When we moved back to Kansas City, though, Shannon and I took positions with office hours, and both of our offices are over half an hour from where we’re living. As a result, Oscar is home alone for eight or more hours every day, and he is not happy about it.
I take him for a walk every morning and Shannon takes him out every afternoon, so he has plenty of opportunities to do his business outside.
And he’s not ignorant of the rules – he knows that he’s supposed to poop outside. When Shannon gets home from work, if he’s pooped in the house, he greets her with his tail between his legs and rolls over onto his back in a sign of apology and submission.
He knows the rule, but he breaks it anyways.
I think the big reason is that he doesn’t really understand the rule. He knows that he gets punished for pooping in the house, but he doesn’t get why it’s unsanitary. It seems arbitrary to him, so it doesn’t feel important – it carries no weight in his mind.
This is how I see his day going:
He begins the day napping, but eventually the hours of isolation take their toll and he gets bored. His little mind fixates on what he can do to express his frustration until, in a fleeting moment of rebellion, that arbitrary rule becomes optional and he pops a squat in the middle of the basement floor, where he knows we’ll see it.
Immediately after committing this sin, he realizes its consequences. His mind races for ways to cover it up, but he is unable to make his droppings of indiscretion disappear. He hears a car door close outside and then a key in the front door. With no time left to hide, he has no choice but to apologize and pray that Shannon can forgive him again.
Shannon, seeing the evidence of his rebellion, spanks him, punishes him and, a few minutes later, hugs him and tells him she still loves him even though he messed up.
Though we forgive him every time he poops in the house, we do not condone it. It is still completely unacceptable, and we continually trying new things to break him of this bad habit.
I think this is an apt metaphor for how I often treat sin in my life.
The rules that God has set in place feel arbitrary and inconsequential – I know the rules, but I don’t understand why he established them. I try to obey, but in times of frustration or complacency I make the rules optional and choose to rebel against them.
No matter how many times I break the rules, though, God is always loving and, after I’ve endured the consequences of my sin, is there to hug me and tell me he loves me – not to excuse my behavior, but to show me grace and affection.
This metaphor isn’t perfect, though.
Oscar will never be able to truly grasp the reason for the rules Shannon and I have put in place. His brain simply isn’t able to process at that level.
But God didn’t make humanity that way. We’re not his pets – we are his children, made in his own image and with the ability to think and understand. As we grow closer to him, we get to know him and to learn who he is. He has given us the capacity to truly discern right from wrong.
I pray that I am never content to simply obey the rules. I want to always press forward into deeper maturity, into a better understanding of the heart and character of God.