I cut our dog this past weekend. I mean, I literally cut her! I was grooming her and intended to cut her hair but caught her skin instead, making a painful gash in her back leg. She yelped and jumped, whirling her head around and looking back at me in complete bewilderment.
The tears came to my eyes, and I quickly flicked off the clippers and scooped her up in my arms. "I'm so sorry, Daisy, I'm so sorry!" I kept repeating over and over again.
Even though it had been an accident, I still felt like the wickedest person in the world. I had been trying to shave the hair on her tummy extra-close and in my determination to get it the way I wanted it to be, I forgot that I was working on a living, breathing creature and snipped out a little furrow of skin. It was my own stubborn self-will that hurt Daisy, not the clippers.
Since I had started the haircut, I knew I had to finish it. Once she and I both stopped trembling, I set her back down on the table so that I could finish the grooming. She looked up at me with her big, brown eyes so filled with love that it brought tears to my eyes again.
“Oh, Daisy! How can you possibly still love me after I hurt you so badly?" I exclaimed.
I stroked the silky-soft hair on the top of her head, patted her side and went back to work – this time with far more gentleness and conscientiousness than before. The more I worked, the more she looked into my eyes in that same loving, compassionate way. The more she looked, the more humbled I was. She seemed to be trying to comfort me even though she was the one who had been cut!
She hung around me for the rest of that day, nudging me with her nose and wagging her tail every time I glanced at her. Every time I glanced at her, I felt bad all over again. Every time I felt bad all over again, she nudged me with her nose and wagged her tail at me. And so the cycle continued for the rest of that day.
The next day, she was her same old self; you’d never have guessed I’d hurt her so badly the day before. The wound was now covered with scab and on its way to complete healing. Of course, I was still worried and kept checking it to make sure it really was getting better.
“Oh, Margaret!” Mark good-naturedly scolded me. “Stop that! Daisy’s forgotten all about it. You should, too.” He was right. Daisy was fine – I was the one still suffering, wallowing in my own guilt and repeatedly beating up on myself for causing damage while trying to impose my own strong will.
That afternoon, I had the opportunity for some quiet time alone. As I sat, Rosary in hand, I started to wonder what message the heavenly Father had for me in this situation.
It seems to me that we human beings do that an awful lot to each other. We become so determined to get things the way we want them to be that we forget we are working with other living, breathing creatures and we snip out little pieces of each other's hearts with our own self-will. Making sure that things turn out according to our desires and standards becomes so all-consuming that we cut deeply because we simply can't help ourselves. We want to do things just right so badly that we furrow into the flesh without even realizing it. The original intent may be good, but the damage done can take a long, long time to heal.
I have a quote hanging on my desk, just above my computer screen that I read from time to time, especially when I’m puzzled or discouraged. It was spoken by Father Joseph Kentenich (1885-1965), founder of the International Schoenstatt Movement and a person to whom I often go for wisdom and reflection. It goes like this:
"Personalities who create history use their minds to participate in the creative activity of the divine mind. They reflect on divine thoughts, and check to see what God wants and what features he would like to see imprinted on our age; they follow the law of the ‘open door.’ Time and again God wants to reveal his thoughts to us through the circumstances, to tell us how he wants to shape and form the present times, present-day life, also through us.”
What does that mean? It means that we're obligated to follow God's will for us and to try to determine his will by listening to and observing the people and happenings around us. We have to be watchful for the opportunities he places before us, and open ourselves to his creative work within and through us. We are called to participate in the creative activity of his divine mind. In the same way, we're obligated to allow others to follow God's will for them. We have to be watchful for the opportunities he places before them, and give them the freedom to open themselves to his creative work within and through them. We are called to facilitate their participation in the creative activity of his divine mind, because God’s will isn’t just for me; it’s for us.
Inevitably there will be times that we – regardless of our best intentions – cut deeply into others. It's inevitable that there will be times that others – regardless of their best intentions – cut deeply into us. We can take our cue from Daisy. For as much as she was hurting, she knew I was hurting more.
Copyright 2011 Marge Fenelon
About the Author
Marge Steinhage Fenelon is a wife, mother, award-winning author and journalist, blogger, and popular speaker. She appears weekly on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air Show" and other Catholic radio shows. She blogs regularly for National Catholic Register and at MargeFenelon.com. She's author of the best-selling "Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena (Ave Maria Press, 2016) and many other books on Marian devotion and Catholic spirituality.