“Those thieving mongrels down the back have stolen Tiger’s ball again!”
As I listened to Steve’s slightly irritated announcement, I watched our miniature fox terrier run in demented circles around the garden searching for his precious fuzzy, yellow treasure.
“What? Another one?” I asked, without any real surprise. “How many does this make all together?”
I didn’t really need a response. Not counting the red foam rubber mistake that Steve had brought home for his favourite pup a fortnight before (which had been reduced to crimson crumbs within the space of ten minutes by Tiger himself), there had been at least four of our little dog’s beloved tennis balls purloined from the back garden in the space of as many weeks.
Now although Steve’s comment about our backyard intruders may have sounded a little harsh, it really was a case of “if the dog collar fits, wear it!” The thieves in question were quite literally “mongrels” - two mischievous, multi-cross puppies who seemed to find great sport in sneaking into our garden and stealing Tiger’s dinner and toys.
They were very cute, there was no question about that, but their visits were definitely becoming just a little tiresome. Not only was their thievery a nuisance, but they’d also taken a fancy to digging in our garden beds, eating Tiger’s dinner, scratching up the lawn, chewing the sprinkler fittings and, worst of all, leaving little doggy ”presents” under the clothesline.
As if cleaning up after one dog wasn’t bad enough!
They were also blissfully oblivious to any attempt made by us to rebuke them. Even when we used our sternest of voices to shout, “BAD DOGS! GO HOME!” they simply bounced playfully toward us with their tails wagging and eyes sparkling, ready to take part in whatever “game” it was that we happened to be playing.
What really made it frustrating though, was the fact that Tiger always swung wide the door of hospitality and did the doggy equivalent of passing out drinks and canapes each time the little terrors came a’calling.
Come to think of it, maybe he deserved to lose his tennis balls after all!
Honesty compels me to admit that our pup has not been totally blameless when it came to being a canine commando. Although very rare (particularly when compared to the full scale invasions carried out by the two puppies and their parents), there have definitely been times when Tiger has sneaked off to visit his neighbourhood pals.
Too bad he didn’t think to bring home a couple of his toys while he was at it!
As annoying as it has become to see the little intruders bounding through our garden and as difficult as it is to catch them and send them home, the reality is that they aren't actually the problem. In fact, they're purely symptoms of the real issue, which happens to be a 20-year-old, totally decrepit, paling fence.
Although both side fences have been replaced with strong and sturdy, mist-green colour-bond panels, the back fence is way overdue for maintenance. Held together by a combination of old pantyhose, paving bricks and pieces of ply wood, the structure is literally on borrowed time! In fact, it has reached the point where we no sooner block one opening before another suddenly appears.
The mischievous visitors will continue to do what comes naturally, no matter how many times we scold them or chase them back home, until the day arrives when we finally get around to dealing with the main problem.
It’s the same sort of thing as a toothache really. The pain gets our attention and sends us running for anything that will stop the agony. However, the fact is that the pain is there to let us know that something is wrong with the tooth. No matter how much we may live on pain killers to mask the symptoms, it will only get worse until we actually go to the Dentist and treat the cause of our suffering.
Unfortunately, treating the problem often involves a lot more from us, initially, than when we just cope with the symptoms. However, it’s only when we actually deal with what’s really causing us the pain or hardship that we can ever hope to find complete release. To do anything else is to live forever in the hope of masking the on-going symptoms.
Most of us would agree that when we do that, it really takes a toll on our ability to enjoy this precious, God-given life.
Firing at the “symptoms” instead of at the “disease” is a common response to problems and can involve such things as our health, finances, careers and, sadly, even our relationships. This pot-shot reaction is, ultimately, very destructive and unfortunately, aimed in all the wrong places.
Through his message to the Church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul warns us of the need to make sure that when we go into battle, we’re always very clear as to whom or what it is we’re fighting:
Whether we’re talking about fences or offences, as Christian men and women it’s time for us to step into maturity and look beyond the surface issues, irritations and annoyances, to search out the true enemy lying beneath. Then, once we have the root cause in sight (which may sometimes even be an attitude lying deep within ourselves), let’s not waste time trying to cover up the symptoms. Instead, let’s take aim and, in God’s strength, go on the offensive!
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