I absolutely love the internet sensation known as dog shaming. There is even an entire website dedicated to dog shaming. title Clever people post photos of their dogs with a sign around their neck or sitting nearby that states the simple truth of their bad behavior. Sometimes, it's a pair of naughty dogs who share in horrible habits. Somehow, the pictures most often capture very sorrowful expressions on these canine's faces and I even find myself feeling sorry for the poor pup.
The Bible even uses the sometimes comical behavior of dogs to describe our own sin nature. The Book of Proverbs which is chock full of practical advice for right living says in Verse 26:11, "Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly." What a gross but familiar picture. We've seen dogs or other animals do some vile things. And what the verse reveals is that we, like the dogs, will return to the very things we "threw up" or got rid of from our life. We return to the sins or habits or bad behavior because somehow we think they are more comfortable and easier than the new life we have in Christ.
Sometimes we don't return to our old ways on purpose. Sometimes it's a slow fade back into a destructive thought pattern, like "I'm no good" or "No one cares about me". Sometimes it's a return to habit that once relieved stress or anxiety like overeating, alcohol, smoking or porn. And then there are the bad friendships or romantic relationships that make for mountains of trouble. These people are just plain bad for us. They suck us into behavior that is not God honoring or even honors ourselves or family. Gossip, excessive drinking or affairs are the only things these people have to offer us, yet we go back time and time again.
The Proverbs verse is even referred to again in 2 Peter 2:22. The writer adds the visual picture of a sow who washes herself, only to return to the muck and filth to roll in it again. The passage in which it is included discusses false prophets and teachers - many of us are not false prophets and teachers, but when we identify with Christ and then return to old habits and behaviors we do ourselves and those around us harm. The bigger problem is we are choosing to live in bondage to the very things we so desperately sought deliverance from. If you back up a few verses 2 Peter 2:19 "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved."
We can laugh at those silly dogs in those pictures. Isn't it ironic that we can be quite similar? We can become enslaved to the "feel good" behaviors or the default habits because it's easier to do what we know. What do we do about it? Do we gate ourselves off from that which causes us to sin or confine ourselves to a small area so we are not tempted? Perhaps it's fine to take precautions and set boundaries in our lives. But the Enemy is tricky and will find other ways to set off the bad behavior even when we think we've rid our life of the triggers.
The bigger problem is not our propensity to repeat our folly, it's that we refuse to repeatedly surrender our lives daily or hourly in all things. We compartmentalize God's will in our lives. God can have our Sunday morning and a minute or two before a meal but we don't let Him rule the rest of our day. We don't take Christ with us on the commute to work or the drive to the grocery store. He's left out of the home improvement and finances discussion that ends in a heated argument and hurt feelings. Christ is rarely considered by the frustrated mother trying to explain the difficult homework assignment to her child. The list goes on and on.
We think it's too hard and we throw our hands up. But Jesus came and specifically said He can make it easy. Easy. Jesus makes it plain and clear in Matthew 11:27-30, "All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Yes, all things have been handed over to Jesus. ALL THINGS. Your addiction, your illness, your marriage, your children...the list is infinite. There is nothing Jesus cannot handle if only we surrender. Many of us have surrendered our hearts and accepted Him as our way to heaven but we have not surrendered the things of the day to day.
It's my personal prayer that I let God show me the things that I return to that make me sick, whether it be friendships, habits or thought patterns. It's my prayer for you, that you find healing in the loving arms of the Savior who came not to hang a sign around your neck to shame you, but to remove that shame once and for all.