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06 July 2011

Forming Lab(rador) Habits

I don't make a very good adult.

A few years ago we built a deck onto the back of our house. It's elevated, darned swell by some people's standards, and is large enough to hold a decent-sized group of revelers (or genuinely boring people, as the case may be, though we've never had any of those on the deck). Back in those days we were the proud owners of a happy and energetic chocolate Labrador Retirver named (wait for it...) Hershey. These days we're still the proud owners of Hershey, and he hasn't slowed down at all even though he's eight years old (that's, like, a kabillion years for you and me or something).

I don't make a very good adult because although I know one shouldn't allow a frenetic lab on one's deck, I allowed Hershey to get on the deck here and there, scolding him only sometimes. After all, he acts very meek when he ambles up the stairs. Good adults know that's just a ruse, but I tend to give in too easily. As the years have passed, I've thought, "He's not really doing any harm," and have instructed him to stay off the deck mainly when company is present. Slowly and habitually he's migrated up the stairs over those years and he now feels comfortable resting/sleeping at the top.

Since the swinging door at the top of the steps sags a bit and doesn't latch easily, I don't always force it closed; it can freely swing open. I left it that way recently; the same evening I hurriedly set a bag of kitchen garbage on the deck just outside the back door, next to the steps. Callie and I were cleaning the house in preparation for genuinely boring people revelers the next day. I would step out and drop the Hefty Cinch Sack into the big green garbage can in a few minutes, I reasoned.

In a way, I'm not sure why I was so surprised when I opened the back door the next morning and the trash bag was no longer intact. I guess I didn't expect to see it because it never happens. The combination of at least two things led to the sprawling mess of filth on my deck and in the yard: haste and allowing the development of a seemingly harmless pattern. Not in that order.

Here's what I initially thought of as I was collecting garbage that morning:

"Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:6-7, NLT)

I'm sure there are better analogies for this incident, but "crouching at the door" seemed appropriate.

The Tale of Hershey and the Trash is a parallel of how easily something big (and bad) can result from nurturing bad habits, even if they seem insignificant. The wrong kind of physical spark in a dating relationship can lead to serious consequences. So can an "innocent" office relationship. Gossip tends to get out of hand this way. The list of slippery slopes can be as long as you'd like to make it.


Does this mean that we should never dance because it might lead to fornication? We shouldn't watch TV because we might see a commercial for a 900 number and that might lead to something else? We shouldn't consume alcohol because it might lead to drunkenness? Though I'd say "No" to all of the above, your list will look different from mine. I believe we should always remember this statement that Paul made: "If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall." (1 Corinthians 10:10, NLT -- the link goes to verses 10-32, which is excellent for exploration of additional related topics)


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