Although the Elvis era came and went before I was old enough to have an opinion on the matter, one of his iconic songs has made a distinct impression on me of late. That is the song about the hound dog — particularly the line, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time.” Although my family has always had indoor pets, I have discovered that Texans often keep outdoor pets; some folks keep their family pets chained to a post or tree in the back yard. It is not unusual for these dogs to howl when overwhelmed by loneliness or to bark when they grow weary of running in circles around the tree to which they are tethered.
Lately, God has been showing me that Christians have ample opportunity to be just like those dogs chained to a post. I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t been gravely wounded at some time in his or her life. That is something we all have in common! The difference from one person to another is what we DO with that hurt. If we nurse it, give it life, and make it our identity, we allow that hurt and pain to control us and direct everything we do. Essentially, we chain ourselves to the problems and wounds of the past.
Pain and sorrow are a normal part of life, and there is a natural season for grief; it is perfectly acceptable to mourn and to allow ourselves time to recover from trauma. However, I have noticed that forgiving people who have hurt me is a key to freedom and healing. God has given me a choice: I can hold an offense against the people who hurt me, or I can forgive. If I only forgave people who said they were sorry, I would be missing the point. Jesus died for me when I was an unrepentant sinner, before He ever made me, and before I ever knew that sin was sin (Romans 5:8). I didn’t deserve forgiveness. Similarly, in order to live an emotionally and spiritually healthy life, I need to release forgiveness to others, independently of whether I think they recognize how they have hurt me or whether I think they deserve it or not — in fact, forgiving others is the only way I can be free! If I don’t continue to forgive and bless other people, I end up living life just like that hound dog chained to a tree: limited in my movement and focused on going around in circles.
Worse yet, perhaps I don’t even recognize that I have failed to forgive — perhaps I’m not really chained to my afflictions anymore, and perhaps I’ve even forgiven to a degree. However, I find myself bumping up against some kind of invisible fence (like the one our neighbors put in the front yard for their dogs) that causes discomfort to the degree that I venture no further in my relationships with other people. The solution? I hear the Father prompting me, ever so gently, to draw from Him MORE forgiveness to give away freely to those who have wounded me.
Thank You, Jesus, that I don’t have to live life as “nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time!” Thank You that my pain and hurt does not define me or control me or dictate who I am! Thank You for your forgiveness, which I don’t deserve, but which You freely shower on me! Thank You that I can choose to forgive other people and be free to live as You have called me to live. I can agree with David when he declared: ” Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!” (Psalm 68:19)