Luke waited in the car as I stood in the yard shooting the breeze with my dad. I can’t remember what our conversation was about, but as we chatted I’d occasionally glance over at Luke sitting majestically in the passenger seat of my SUV. He peered at us intently as if he were following along in our conversation. Luke never let me out of his sight when we were out and about together. If I went into a store he’d remain staunchly seated, chin up, eyes fixed on the door as I entered and he’d remain as such until I returned to him. Our conversation continued to flow as Luke repositioned himself. I glanced over to find him slouching, chin resting on the door, nose pressed against the window. Bulldogge nose art. Luke authored his fair share of masterpieces. I drove those creative works around town, displaying them proudly. Like most artists, I don’t think Luke’s creativity and artistic flair was wholly appreciated while he lived. I’m sure it’d be worth some money now if only I hadn’t windexed it away already. Hindsight.
I began to notice Luke’s impatience as my dad and I wrapped up our conversation. Luke adjusted his posture, turned in the seat and came to a rest with his chin propped on the center console. No sooner than we had said our goodbyes and I was turning to head back to my vehicle, my dad said with bewilderment, “What’s Luke doing?” I turned around to find Luke’s rear end up in the air, his nose down below where I could get a visual. My mind raced to figure out what was happening and then it hit me. “Our hot dogs!”, I exclaimed as I ran to salvage what was left of dinner. I had always been able to trust Luke with food. Well, food that was wrapped and sacked up. Once it was opened he demanded his fair share and he’d certainly help himself if it was within his reach. But food not yet opened had traditionally been safe in his care. Temptation. It gets the best of everyone from time to time.
As I worked to clean chili dog out of my cup holder where Luke had mashed it into a pureed snack with his snout, I thought about Eve in the garden. About temptation. I imagined that Luke caught a whiff of dinner’s pleasing aroma which caused him to look upon the hot dogs with desire. He saw that they were good for food and pleasing to his robust appetite, so he took for himself and ate. How could I be upset with him. Even humans created without a sin nature placed in the garden of God had been tripped up by temptation. A hungry bulldogge with idle time didn’t stand a chance against the wiles of chili dog temptation.
As we drove home Luke sat facing the passenger door, nose pressed against the glass, pouting because I had scolded him for stealing dinner. I don’t think he regretted eating the hot dog. He just didn’t want me to be upset with him for doing it. Luke lived free from the need to impress others. He never cared what anyone thought of him. Except for me. He cared deeply about being in my good graces. On the ride home I thought about the similarities and differences of humans and dogs. Both made from the dust and animated by the breath of God. According to Ecclesiastes, our spirits alike return to the One who gave it as our bodies return to dust. Created on the same day, our lives are meant to intertwine in profound ways. The only thing that elevates humans is that we’re image bearers of the Creator with authority over creation. We’re accountable for our actions before the Author of all life. Dogs aren’t.
Luke’s moral failure was relatively miniscule, hardly worth noting. He ate a hot dog for goodness sake. It’s not as though he transgressed into a vicious attack or chewed through a wall. He was a good boy. Luke was never even tempted to chew furniture, mark indoors or act out in any otherwise uncivilized manner. We all have our limits, though. An alluring treat dangling right in front of his nose was just too hard to resist. Oh, the seductive charm of temptation. And isn’t that precisely how temptation slithers in? I’m arrested by the thought. I’m never tempted to rob a bank, commit homicide or shoot up heroine. No, my temptations are much more subtle than that. More sinister. At the heart of every seemingly benign temptation is the desire for good. I’m never lured in by blatant evil. But the desire for knowledge, for autonomy, that’s always the propeller that launches us into the pits of misery. Hell is real and we unleash it into our own lives. We grasp for good, for life apart from the One who sustains us with His breath and we isolate ourselves from ultimate goodness.
The irony. Chasing after tantalizing facades that entice with empty promises. Sweet lies. We gobble them right up. Our appetites consume like raging fires. We spin and labor to achieve our dreams, to reach our goals, to become the person that we imagine we could be. But the satisfaction is always just out of reach. We can’t earn enough, achieve enough, know enough to quench that thirst. As Solomon said, “it’s like chasing after the wind.” It’s unattainable, a phantom. And when we get to the end of our efforts, the end of ourselves, there we find freedom. Freedom from the need to strive, the desire to achieve. Freedom from the gates of hell barred shut from the inside and liberated into who we were created to be. Surrender. A daily discipline that serves to alleviate the churning desires that open the doors to temptation. A relenting of my will, the very thing that sends me careening into the ditch. An embracing of my Creator’s will, the very thing that brings perfect peace.
We pull into the driveway at home and I squeeze Luke tightly, a bear hug of forgiveness. He soaks it up with a smile. As we walked inside I sat what was left of dinner on the kitchen table and announced to my husband, Daryl, that Luke had eaten his hot dog. Puzzled, Daryl replied, “Why’s it gotta be my hot dog?” I smiled, “Good question. You’ll have to ask Luke.”