Are You a Love Dog?

newspaper front page

A friend recently asked me what my favorite poem is. How do you choose just one favorite? Yet, this poem instantly came to mind. It’s from the Sufi mystic Rumi:

One night a man was crying, Allah! Allah!

His lips grew sweet with the praising, until a cynic said,

“So! I have heard you calling out, but have you ever gotten any response?”

The man had no answer to that. He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls, in a thick, green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?”

“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”

“This longing you express is the return message.”

The grief you cry out from draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness that wants help is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs no one knows the names of.

Give your life to be one of them.

Are you a “love dog”? Becoming one requires a radical shift. A recent experience reminded me how radical the shift is.

A reporter from our local newspaper interviewed me about the rise of religious intolerance and also about my new position as Executive Director of the Marin Interfaith Council. The next day I went for an early morning walk. Passing a neighbor’s driveway, I looked down and saw the newspaper and jumped back. My face was on the front page…Yikes!

I knew the article was coming, but I didn’t know it would be front-page news. I became anxious. I wondered which part of the interview was included. I replayed the dialog on my mental turntable. Had I said anything stupid or inappropriate? And why did my face look so wrinkled in the picture? My mind was racing.

I breathed. I stood still. What was going on?

I hated to admit it, but it was ego. I wanted to look good. I wanted to project competence and goodness. My ego works hard to maintain its fabulous self-image and was ready to defend itself.

  • What identity do you maintain and project?
  • What’s the self-image you are ready to defend?
  • Are you willing to let that go in order to find a deeper Life? In order to be a “love dog”?

My friend Nancy McCranie is a Presbyterian minister in Texas. Nancy is funny, smart, and a delight in countless ways. When it comes to officiating weddings, however, she doesn’t mince words. When couples first come to her, Nancy says, “Let’s get one things straight from the start. You have a choice to make. You can have a happy wedding, or you can have a perfect wedding, but you can’t have both. Which do you choose?”

Our choice is just as stark. You can marry ego or marry the Holy, but you can’t do both. The journey of waking up to reality is radical, uncomfortable and non-negotiable. It is to become your fullest, truest Self. And here’s the catch. If it really happens, it’s going to seem like a death.

In Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Richard Rohr writes:

There is a necessary suffering that cannot be avoided which Jesus calls “losing our very life,” or losing what I and others call the “false self”. Your false self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.

You can save your life, or you can lose it, but you can’t do both. You can have a nice, well-defended ego, or you can look at yourself in the mirror, or on the front page of the newspaper, and simply stop defending your ego.

That’s the spiritual path. Surrendering everything: the comfort of approval, people-pleasing identities, cherished stories that keep you safe but small; the beliefs, self-image, God-images to which you are attached. Let it all go.

And what remains when you let go of everything?

In the surrendered emptiness, you come home to your True Self, to that Indescribable Being-ness that you are. At home as your Self, in your Self, everyone and everything finds a proper place.

Let yourself howl and moan and whine for the Source of your deep longing and discover you already are what you’ve been yearning for:

This longing you express is the return message.

The grief you cry out from draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness that wants help is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs no one knows the names of.

Give your life to be one of them.

NOTES: To read the newspaper article referenced above, click here.

This blog was based on a sermon I preached recently. Here is the sermon: Matthew 10-24-39, revised, internet version.

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4 Responses to Are You a Love Dog?

  1. nancy mccranie says:

    Scott, I literally jumped when I saw my name. YOU are a delight in countless ways. And I am howling my heart out down here in the sauna that is Texas. Sending love.

  2. Jane says:

    I’m doing a lot of howling and whining. Thank you for making it seem appropriate.

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