But we have seen the effects of Magdi’s domination since she died. When people come to visit, Chloe hides. Even from children, Chloe hides. If we happen to be swatting at a fly, she runs for cover. She will sit next to us for only a brief amount of time, then she is off to herself somewhere across the yard because that was always Magdi’s spot. In spite of our diligent efforts to treat them the same, Magdi definitely taught Chloe her place.
We thought about another companion for Chloe, but decided it was not a good idea. She would immediately become submissive again because that is all she knows. She needed time to become “her own dog,” and to know that this was her territory to defend.
Things are coming along, but slowly. She has started digging up moles in the yard. She did this before, but Magdi always took them away from her. When she dug up the first one after Magdi died, she left it for her. Now she knows it’s hers to do with as she pleases. This year the moles have made our yard look like a topographical map, so we are happy to let her do it, even if it means we need to fill in the holes, and we encourage her every time we come across a tunnel.
The neighbor walked his dogs the other day-- two huge Great Danes loping along the fence line like a couple of horses. Chloe wouldn’t go to the fence to challenge them as she used to do with Magdi, but instead of hiding under the porch as she has since Magdi died, she sat out on a raised mound and actually barked at them. Last week some repairmen came. She went out to the road and barked at the truck! The next day when guests came, she hid under the porch again. Oh well, progress is often measured in inches instead of miles.
This morning she walked up to the gate with me. There on the other side was another dog sniffing the ground as dogs do, checking to see who had been around lately and whether this was a place he could claim as his own. I stopped to see what would happen. Instantly Chloe’s ears popped up. She straightened her stance and her tail stood at attention. A low growl began to erupt from deep within her chest, and before I realized what was happening, she spun out, charging the gate with a ferocious bark. That other dog took one look and hightailed it back up the road to his own place, the place Chloe had just put him in with her vigorous defense of her people and her property.
No, it doesn’t mean that things are suddenly right. She still has a long way to go, but she is doing better. We showed her that it was her job, and she has stepped up to the plate, at least once in awhile. There may be things she can never do as well as Magdi did, but there are things she can do even better—like hear the moles in the ground and dig them up.
Haven’t you known a young man who had to follow in the footsteps of a dominant father, one who accomplished much and had many admirers, a young man who thought he could never do the same, and so quit trying? It’s our fault when that happens. We expected him to be his father instead of being who he was. It may very well be that the man he is can do other things equally well, or better, but our expectations have kept him from even discovering those things.
And so in the family of God, as each generation comes along, it is our duty to teach them “the ropes.” Excuse my mixed metaphors, but it is also our duty to step out of the way and pass the torch. No, we don’t put old men out to pasture. If they can still teach or sing or preach or pray, then they need to do that. They have an obligation to God to do that as long as they are able. But we must also allow the next generation time to grow, time to make a few mistakes and learn from them, time to become their own men in the Lord.
“Passing the torch” takes humility. You know you are better so you keep it and run another mile. Meanwhile, that young man, the one with fresher legs, gets no experience, no on-the-job training, and no encouragement. Then, when the old men are gone, he can do nothing. Or perhaps worse, he believes that the things he can do don’t count for anything. Where is the wisdom in that?
Being a young, or inexperienced man takes humility too. Those men before you know what they are talking about when they give you advice. Listen to them. You will not match their prowess at the beginning, but with their help and God’s help and your own hard work, you can be every bit the men of God they are. And by the way, the same goes for the women in the church too.
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one, 1 John 2:13-14.