Jo, our dog, relentlessly chased the skunk. As I have previously shared, he has some quirky traits that I call special…I won’t tell you what Jim calls them One of these traits is that he becomes so focused on a task that nothing can persuade or deter him from that task, except for one thing. I have found that if I say, “Jo where’s your stick?” he will immediately stop what he was doing (such as viciously attacking the tires on the UPS truck), tilt his head like an innocent, playful puppy and go bounding off in search of his favorite stick.
Back to the skunk….Needless to say, chasing it had become Jo’s task and by the time I realized that there was a problem, he was already down the hill, past the point of no return. All I could do was to wait. Sure enough, Jo came home a stinky mess. As far as I remember, there have only been a few times in his life when he has had to sleep outside, but his bad choice increased that number significantly. He usually sleeps beside our bed, and we both (Jo and I, not Jim) felt very sad when he was locked up on the front deck at bedtime. Because of my schedule, I didn’t have time to bathe him right away; but truth be told, I was hoping that between living with the nasty smell and the separation from us, that he would learn the lesson about chasing skunks. The next day, he got his bath in a special formula that would eradicate and wipe out the foul odor, and as a final bonus, we conditioned his hair with my favorite coconut scent. He smelled good! At least I thought he smelled good. Jim had to point out that Jo may have preferred the foul odor…
At bedtime I brought Jo inside and immediately was assaulted with the same foul odor of skunk! I couldn’t believe that he had gotten sprayed again so quickly, and he didn’t show signs of tangling with a skunk. As I pondered this problem, I took off his leather collar and realized that this was the offender. We had not removed it from Jo’s neck when we gave him a bath because I thought it would clean the collar too. However, as it dried out, the smell was still entrenched in it. Jo and I were both relieved that the problem was not a part of him and that I could put the collar outside and he could stay inside with us.
I love it when the Lord uses animals to teach us His principles. I thought about how when we accept Jesus as our Savior, He bathes us in the cleansing, purifying blood of His Son, the Lamb of God, and we enter into His Kingdom as His special child. There can be things that are still attached to us that are not a part of us or God’s Kingdom, but because they have been there for so long, we don’t even realize that they are a problem until they start to stink. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit doesn’t show us these things all at once. But just like Jo’s collar began to stink when it dried out, our sin or the things in our lives that hinder us from being able to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength begin to reveal themselves in God’s time.
One morning many years ago, I was in the bathroom putting on my make up. Depression and anger had been with me for so long that I thought they were a part of who I was. I was especially depressed and angry that day, and in fact I was contemplating leaving home and never coming back.
I guess Jesus had put up with that foul odor long enough because as I looked in the mirror, I began to see a very ugly thing looking back at me, like I was seeing my face but something else mixed in with it. I heard the Lord tell me that I was looking at depression and anger, and then He asked me if I would be willing to let them go. It was like a light bulb went off as I realized that these things were not a part of me! But the thoughts that the enemy was pounding into my mind were things like, “But you have a right to be angry.” “If you give up these things you’ll loose control and that will be really bad because you can’t trust anybody!” “You’ve tried everything to deal with these problems and nothing works. It’s hopeless. You’re just going to have to be like this forever.” And then I heard Jesus’ loving voice say, “Nancy, have you ever given them to me?” “No Lord.” “Will you give them to me now? It’s not hopeless. I can deliver you if you’ll just let me take them.”
Sounds easy now, but at that moment one of the greatest battles for my soul (mind, will, emotions) was going on as I realized that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to part with them. Then I looked in the mirror again and saw in truth the reality of those ugly, repulsive, foul things. I saw those demons for the destroyers that they were. I saw the truth that they were not a part of me, and made a choice that went against my feelings. I said, “Lord you know that I can’t do a thing to rid myself of them, but if You can, You can have them.” There was no snarling or foaming at the mouth or anything like that. There was just all of a sudden, a difference. There was a peace in my whole being that had never been there before. The depression and anger were both gone, and my image in the mirror was happy and content. Jesus had removed that stinky collar from my life.
Then there are those times when, like Jo, we get focused on the wrong things and don’t hear our Shepherd calling us away; or maybe we hear but ignore His voice because we want to chase the “skunk.” So Jesus just waits patiently for us to get so weary and/or wounded in our pursuit that we are ready to come back home to Him. He cleans us up and heals our wounds just as a Shepherd gently picks up a little lost lamb and tenderly cares for its needs. Then He asks us if we are ready to take that stinky collar of sin off our necks, or if we love its foul odor more than we love Him. This is especially important to Him because that stench of sin will hinder our relationship with Him, just like Jo’s smell caused him to have to sleep outside instead of in his comfy spot close beside us.
To me, Jo and the skunk are a visual image of the lesson Paul is describing in Ephesians 4:22-24. I will share several translations of this scripture because I found it helpful to hear it in these different ways.
“We do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (The Message)
“Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him], Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.” (Amplified)
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (NIV)
I pray that you will run away from stinky business; that you will be washed and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb and by the pure water of the Word; that you will allow your stinky collars to be removed; and that you will have a blessed day in the presence of Jesus Christ who loves you beyond comprehension.