I watched an episode of Cesar Milan’s “Dog Whisperer” TV show a few weeks ago and was fascinated by the dynamic between man and dog. It looked like Milan had taken on Mission Impossible with this particular mutt – a wild, willful bundle of energy. The dog was acting out as his emotions ran amok: anxiety, fear, self-protection, frustration, anger, desire to dominate, urge to flee, and more. He was a real handful, even for the masterful Dog Whisperer.
The dog lunged and snarled; the man stood his ground, asserting who was in charge. The dog menaced; the man didn’t flinch, instead putting his hand on the canine. The dog went ballistic, trying to break free from the man’s grasp, despite that fact that the man was superior in size, power, and intelligence. The dog resisted; the man persisted. The more the dog rebelled, the more the man effectively reinforced who was calling the shots.
The tension was riveting. My stomach knotted as I watched the struggle between man and beast. Who would prevail? Had the Dog Whisperer finally met his match? Would this crazy canine get the best of the famous dog tamer? Or would Milan, the Savior of Incorrigibles, be able to work his magic on this hopeless case?
The suspense was palpable; my body tensed as I watched the drama unfold. Then suddenly out of nowhere – as if the network had broken into the program for a special announcement – I had an epiphany. As I watched the struggle on screen, it dawned on me: I am that dog! The struggle between the dog and his Whisperer mirrored the struggle between me and my God.
As the show concluded, Cesar Milan explained how the dog will be less anxious, happier, and more secure when he submits to the powerful, protective energy of the pack leader. And I realized how much I am happier I am when I feel the strength and security of God’s power and grace. Just as dogs thrive when they know their place in the pack, I thrive when I know my place in the universe. Dogs are happiest when they experience positive discipline, structure, and love; I am happiest when I experience the same.
The TV show drew to an end with the Dog Whisperer victorious and his former canine combatant falling into line behind him. I chuckled – not at the dog but at myself.
Like many dogs, I am a slow learner … as well as a fast forgetter. On those occasions when I forget who is the Alpha God in my life and become disconnected from the Holy, I suffer separation anxiety. When that happens, I get caught up in anxiety, fear, self-will, and defiance. Lapsing into bad behavior, I flail around, howl at the moon, and make a mess of myself and my surroundings – out of control and out of harmony with everyone and everything.
I need to be reminded frequently that I am not the “God Whisperer” – I do not bend God to my will. I am not the Alpha; I do not train God to follow my lead. And if I ever think I’m the Alpha, I’ve got it backwards.
Instead, I am the one in need of leadership and it is God who is the Soul Whisperer – working with my willful, unruly, undisciplined soul – patiently, lovingly taming my restless, rebellious spirit. The moment I finally surrender to my Higher Power, the instant I quit trying to call the shots, everything falls into place. It is only then, when my will is aligned with His will, that the Soul Whisperer is able to work His magic with me … and I am transformed.
My dad was an Air Force pilot. He taught me the difference between a pilot and a co-pilot. The pilot calls the shots; the co-pilot is the number two guy (or gal). The pilot is in charge; the co-pilot assists him – supporting, helping, and providing an extra pair of eyes, ears, and hands. The co-pilot’s job is important, but he never forgets who’s in charge.
Some years ago I noticed that many cars were sporting bumper stickers that read: “God is my co-pilot.” I understood what they were trying to say, but they missed the mark.
Then one day I saw a new bumper sticker that read: “If God is your co-pilot, switch seats.” I laughed out loud and gave the driver a big thumbs-up as I passed him a couple miles later. At last … someone got it right!
This driver understood the error of asserting that “God is my co-pilot” … people were saying: “I drive and God is my helper. I call the shots and God does my bidding.” I don’t know about you, but my life doesn’t work very well when I try to call the shots. When I think I’m the boss and God simply does as I wish, I’m in deep yogurt.
Now, I’m a Type A kind of gal who was raised to take initiative, make things happen, get the ball rolling, and accomplish results. My dad trained his daughter to be an achiever – he trained me to be a pilot. He did not believe in God, so there was never any mention of a Higher Power who was in charge of the Universe. As far as Dad was concerned, he was in charge of his own universe and I was supposed to grow up and be in charge of mine.
As with a lot of things my dad taught me, I’ve had to spend many years un-learning that whole “captain of my own destiny” thing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve “captained” myself right into a big mess – a mess that God rescued me from when I finally surrendered my willfulness.
I’ve learned most of my lessons the hard way – by making lots of mistakes. As poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote, “It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another … it’s one damn thing over and over.”
I live in Los Angeles, not far from Hollywood. So I often think of Life as one big epic show being acted out on the world stage. God is the Director – not me. I am just an actor in this production and my job is to play my part as best I can. I may get to ad lib or improvise a little now and then, but I must remember that I am not running the show. I don’t get to write the script for the other actors, nor do I get to tell them how to play their parts. My only job is to perform my role with every bit of talent and skill that I can muster.
On those occasions when I forget who I am and try to slip into the Director’s chair, the results are always disastrous. The other actors rebel and refuse to do what I tell them. People get upset … and I get upset, too. The production never goes how I think it should.
But then God taps me on the shoulder and suddenly I remember who I am – just an actor who let her ego get in the way, forgetting her proper role in the show called Life. So I climb down out of the Director’s chair, humbled and chastened by my utter failure at calling the shots.
God must laugh and shake His head. One of these days you’ll learn, sweetheart, He must be thinking. He never scolds or punishes me – He just lets me learn by my own experience, no matter how many times it takes.
My dad may have trained me to be a pilot, but God is training me as His co-pilot. The world (and my life) run perfectly … as long as I remember who’s in charge.