A Lesson from a Dog and a Dirty Sock

My friend Richard is a pastor. In many ways Richard has restored my faith in pastoral care. He sees beyond the surface and reflects an authentic faith, free of the burdens of guilt and clear on the redemptive process. Because of this, those who feel disenfranchised from faith and the church are drawn to him and his love of God and slowly find themselves willing to give faith another try. Richard has a dog named Maddy. Maddy is beloved by the family and Maddy loves them back with the fierce love that only a dog can have. When the family comes home, Maddy runs for them and cannot get enough affection and attention.

There is one exception. Maddy has a sock fetish. When Maddy finds a dirty sock she obsesses over it, guarding it with her life and all her ferocious energy. The family knows when she has gotten into the dirty laundry and has found a sock because when they come home, she doesn’t come running. All the affection the family can give is waiting for her, but Maddy will stay in a corner, growling and guarding the dirty sock. The sock can give Maddy nothing. It doesn’t feed her, love her, protect her or care for her. Yet it gets all her attention.

I love this story. There have been so many dirty socks in life for me. Things that get all my attention yet they give me nothing. They don’t satisfy. The more I thought about Maddy when Richard first relayed this story, the more I wondered if the reason Maddy obsesses over these socks is because the scent of the family is on them. It’s not the family, it’s a counterfeit, but she is blind to that in the moment. She has this sock in her possession and can think of nothing else. They have to pry it out of her paws and the moment they do, she is all theirs, able to receive the affection and love that was there all the time.

My dirty socks in life are those things that are counterfeit to the real deal. I obsess over them thinking they will satisfy, until in those moments of truth I drop the sock and run to God receiving the rest and love that my soul was craving all along. I am like Maddy - a slow learner. I tend to give up my dirty socks only after a stubborn quiet fight and fierce growl.

I know I'm always going to have life's dirty socks. But my prayer is that I learn to give up my dirty socks with less and less of a fight, willing to see the counterfeit for what it is and run to the affection and love that is waiting.

Marilyn R. Gardner  was born in the United States in a small town called Winchendon, known for it’s famous Toy Factory in the State of Massachusetts. At 3-months of age she was packed up with diapers and dollies and taken on a 6-week ocean journey to the country of Pakistan. Pakistan became her adopted home and she had less and less in common with her passport country. She moved to the United States after graduation from high-school and became a Registered Nurse. She was fortunate to marry her soul-mate and they embarked on a life of adventure and surprise which has continued through 5 kids, 3 continents and many houses. Her international experience includes growing up in Pakistan, working as a nurse in Pakistan, raising a family for 7 years in Egypt and numerous medical missions trips to various countries – the latest in October 2010 to Pakistan to participate in Medical flood relief. She longs to communicate across boundaries, reflecting the God she loves.