I love our dog, Jake. He is the most laid back, unassuming, trouble-free dog on the planet. But you’d argue with me about that if you had to give him a bath. Because he’s a Lhasa Apso/Shih Tzu mix his hair grows very long, and because he’s a boy it gets very dirty.
When I decide enough is enough, I get a towel, set out the shampoo, clear away the shower curtain, and adjust the bath water until it isn’t too hot or too cold. I go to find him--usually doing his best impression of a shag rug-- scoop him up, give him a kiss while making my way to the tub, and gently set him in.
I’ve done everything I can to make him as comfortable as possible and yet, the minute the tepid water touches him you’d think I was killing him. His crying and whining can be heard through the closed bathroom door into the hall. I do my best to get the job done quickly but thoroughly. I give him another kiss and tell him he’s okay. He tries a number of times to make his escape, but we get through it.
As soon as he’s cleaned and rinsed and not one minute more, I turn off the water, set him on the towel I’ve laid out on the floor and dry him before I open the door and he goes flying through the house in utter joy and relief. He rubs his body all over the carpet and runs to each of us as if to say, “Look at me! I’m clean!” His hair is silky soft and he looks like a brand new dog. He loves to be clean but he hates the process.
Aren’t we the same way?
We want to be cleaned—to be made into the image of the Son of the Living God—but sometimes we whine and cry during our spiritual baths.
2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “For this cause we do not faint; but though our outward man perishes, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
Daily we face opportunities for spiritual cleansing and growth. God knows the ways each of us needs to be cleaned up--an attitude adjustment here, the purging of a sin there. And every day God brings certain circumstances into our lives that allow for our particular need of cleansing. Maybe it’s a trial to instill more trust and faith; perhaps it’s another person who gives us opportunity to learn patience and love.
He readies the tools, scoops us up, gives us a kiss, tells us it will be alright, and gives us our bath. And sometimes we can find ourselves crying our way through it, thinking we are being harmed, when all along our souls are being perfected and made more holy than they were the day before. We are being sanctified for His work that we may be useful in His hands.
I'm not saying baths are always fun. Sometimes they're downright painful. But we can hold onto the Lord, knowing that He’s with us the entire time, being as gentle as possible and He doesn’t allow it to go on one second longer than is needed. And as we hold onto Him, He whispers in our ear truths and wisdom that we can only know in those times of intimacy.
In the end we will be complete, our souls readied for eternity in the House of God.
Jake would make it a lot easier on himself if he would learn to relax and trust me. He only adds stress to the situation when he allows himself to become anxious and fearful.
Like Jake, we’re going through the bath one way or the other. We can choose to go through it filled with anxiety or we can relax and trust the Lord and His unending wisdom and love.
And Jake knows that in the end he gets a cookie.