How my puppy taught me that grace is amazing

Fizz the puppy
Fizz the puppy

We have a puppy!

Fizz is nine weeks old and is what used to be called a mongrel. She’s what my dad calls a “Heinz 57”. She’s a mutt and we love her. Her dad was a collie of some kind and her mum was part-labrador, part-spaniel, part-pretty-much-every-other-breed I think. She’s very cute and like all puppies she manages to capitalise on it.

As with any puppy, Fizz needs to be house-trained. Being thoroughly modern owners we’ve read “Puppies for dummies” and searched every dog website there is. Most of them seem to be thinly disguised adverts for dog products of some kind. We decided to invest in some “pee pads”. These are the inside of a nappy spread out into a square and they are impregnated with some chemical that allegedly attracts puppies to pee on them. They are the modern equivalent of having newspaper all over the floor. The idea is that they make it easier to train your puppy to go on the pad and then you gradually move the pad closer to the door and eventually outside. This trains the puppy to pee outside.

Dogs can’t read

I know that’s obvious but in our research we forgot that Fizz did not read “Humans for dummies” or browse the many “How to train your new owners” Dog websites. Specifically she did not read the instructions on the packet of pee pads. She didn’t know what they were for nor that they were for her own good. In short she didn’t use them. No, she actually hated them. The wunder-chemical did nothing to attract her to them and whenever we put her on the pad — at the allotted time or when she looked like she was wanting to go — she would sit with that “naughty puppy” look on her face then after half hour of nothing we would let her off and she would pee on the rug. The one time she did “go” on the pad, it was more by fluke than design – we still heaped much praise on her as instructed but it was a one-off. She was getting good at recognising when she needed to go but had no desire to go where we wanted. Such is the way with puppies.

So what could we do? Three days of this had left us with a puppy who was in danger of becoming neurotic about paper on the floor and was still peeing and pooping everywhere else. She seemed to understand this wasn’t the plan but it was like she felt she had no option. We decided to skip the pee pad and starting taking Fizz into the back garden. We had been avoiding this as she hasn’t been vaccinated yet but our garden is enclosed and we have no other dogs.

It worked. From day one Fizz has trotted outside onto the grass and done what comes naturally. within 24 hours she had a regular toilet routine down and she also scratches at the back door to let us know if she needs an interim “leg-stretch”.

And grace..?

So what has any of this to do with grace then? Well when you are standing out in the cold waiting for a puppy to “go wee-wee” you do a lot of thinking. On one of these it occurred to me that the reason there are so many ways to house-train a puppy is because puppies are all different. If they were robotic we could just program their software to act how we want. They’re not robots. they are living things with minds and individuality. The reason this technique worked for us is that it suited Fizz. Other dog owners will experience more success with pee-pads and others still will swear by them (as opposed to at them). Then it occurred to me that humans are like this. We’re fickle, what suits one doesn’t necessarily suit another. It’s long been known that some students thrive in class but are hopeless in exams. Others are the opposite, being able to swot up and regurgitate the relevant facts but not apparently being able to get along in class very well. As someone once said, You are unique – just like everyone else. God knows this. He designed us that way. God seems to like diversity.

As has been often said, he didn’t make us as robots – we have free will. That’s all well and good but it has side effects, not least of which is the one that we could (and do) use our free will to reject the very idea of God altogether. It’s that dangerous game that parents play and none more so than God. The game is that you pour your heart and soul into bringing up your kids and you can at best only hope they won’t reject you and walk away. Most times kids like anyone will respond to a loving upbringing by loving their parents but that love does not always mean they will be what their parents had dreamed. And those with multiple children will know that what works with one child is almost as likely to not work with the next. People, like puppies are diverse. Imagine coming up with a single method of house-training every single puppy which not only works but suits every puppy’s individual needs and desires. It’s almost impossible, that’s why there are so many. If you want another analogy imagine coming up with a fool-proof weight loss programme which would not only work but suit the individual needs of every person who went on it. Again impossible.

Now consider the diversity between two puppies or two children with the same parents. Now project that upwards to the 6 billion people currently on the planet (never mind all the ones who are no longer on it). Imagine trying to come up with a single way to recompense for the diversity of wrong doing and – yes – sin among so many people. Yet God did. In a single act Jesus dealt with the entire range and amount of sin the human race could collectively muster – ever. And yet not one person is dealt with the same. Each person who comes to what we Christians call the “throne of grace” is forgiven completely and finds all their sin, guilt and even shame dealt with once and for ever. Yet each person will leave with a different experience. Each encounters a very personal and real Saviour who reacts and interacts with them in a way that best suits them. In short each encounters grace which sufficient.

That’s why it’s amazing.