A few months ago, as a precaution, I started carrying pepper spray on walks with my dog, Isaac. While I did not plan, or desire, to use the spray, I felt more at ease with it attached to my bag. It would not cause permanent harm but would protect my dog and me if needed.
One afternoon, an energetic Isaac greeted me at the back door, ready to walk and ride around town. Still distracted by the work day and eager to calm him down, I forgot the bag and the pepper spray. We had pulled into the parking lot of a nearby park before I realized the error. While Isaac bounced excitedly in the car, I froze.
Surely we would be okay without the pepper spray, I told myself.
Of course we would be fine on our outing, I encouraged myself.
Don't be such a scaredy-cat, I reprimanded myself.
It wouldn't take THAT long to go back home and get the spray, I reasoned with myself.
But Isaac was practically out the window with anticipation, and I didn't want him to wait even longer for his outing. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and opened the door to face my fear of walking without pepper spray.
That's when I saw the windshield de-icer on the inside of the driver's door. A bright blue can of hazardous spray strong enough to melt frozen glass. I don't know from where it came (probably my dad) or why I needed it in Mississippi, but I didn't care. The windshield de-icer gave me the same ease as the pepper spray!
I grabbed the bottle and tucked it under my arm as Isaac bounded towards a tree. I wonder if he were eager to run for fun or if he were embarrassed by his pet parent carrying an oversized bottle of de-icer.
When we got home later that afternoon, he jumped on the couch and hid behind a pillow. I think I had my answer. My ease was my dog's embarrassment.
Thankfully we saw very few people that day, and the mysterious, powerful liquid stayed in the can. I had no plans to spray all the Lassies and Totos of the world--only to have something in my hand that gave peace to my mind.
Here in the New Year, we hear a lot about resolutions, but I wonder if we might benefit as much from the creation of rituals. Resolutions carry a sense of obligation, of a desired outcome. Resolutions are an excellent component of the business world.
Rituals are much more spiritual. Rituals are not the opposite of resolutions; they are simply different. Rituals are an outward action pointing to something unseen. Rituals place value on repeated actions that point to a deeper meaning.
As I reflected on the seemingly ridiculousness of carrying that huge can of de-icer, I realized that having pepper spray was a ritual for me. It was an outward expression of my prayer that God would keep us safe. A habit based in safety had become something much deeper.
As a new creation in Jesus Christ, how do we set our minds on the heavenly? Perhaps engaging in godly rituals can help us grow in the mind of Christ. A set time to study the Word with a cup of tea everyday. Scheduling a regular lunchtime with a soul-friend with whom you can share openly. Practicing yoga with meditation on Scripture as companion. Singing in a choir. Allowing your dog to lead you on a daily walk. Outward, earthly actions that draw us toward heavenly glory. Simple, everyday objects pointing us to an extraordinary Savior.
This New Year, let us resolve to engage in rituals that draw us deeper into the hidden life of Christ with God.
And given these bitterly cold, first days of the year, I highly recommend investing in de-icer. Just try not to embarrass the dog with it.
all good things to each of you,