I wasn’t quite sure to what species my new pet belonged. Was it really a dog, or was the striped beast actually a Bengal tiger cleverly disguised as a Great Dane? Since Bengal tigers were considered an endangered species, I reasoned that I did indeed have a genuine canine on my hands.
As some of you may have discovered, sometimes it can be hard to get an actual human being to pay much attention to you. But a dog is different. A dog will sit spellbound while listening to your mindless banter, which to a dog comes off as nothing short of quantum physics. Still, this does provide a large boost to a person’s self-esteem, as long as you don’t stop too long to realize that the mindless dog does not understand a word you are saying. Indeed, he is simply wondering why you are not getting the signal that he needs to be let outdoors to take care of his personal business, and quickly at that!
I took Kai (the name bestowed on the pickup truck-sized dog by her previous owners) off the hands of a nice couple who no longer required her services of scaring the living daylights out of nighttime intruders. Maybe they’d had an alarm system installed; I don’t remember. What I do remember is how alarming Kai’s behavior became once I’d hauled her home.
By the way, I learned in something called seminary that the word “kai” in Greek means “and.” This hardly placed my new dog on the same level as, say, the four dudes enshrined on Mount Rushmore. I mean, imagine a National Park Service tour guide trying to explain the most recent addition: “Here we have carved in stone the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and And.”
“Why is the tour guide stuttering?” one visitor whispers to her husband.
“Could be he’s just overwhelmed at the sight of the majestic . . . dog . . . or tiger . . . or whatever that thing is up there,” her companion responds.
But back to Kai. After several months of unpredictable behavior, such as galloping ’round and ’round the perimeter of my parents’ large garden at the speed of sound, with no apparent goal in mind, and slobbering great amounts of ghastly-looking foam from both corners of her floppy jowls, a truly memorable event took place.
“What’s that dark thing over there by the wall?” I mumbled. (No, it’s not what you think.) I’d made my way down the stairs into the dark basement of our house only to have my eyes slowly focus on a strange object about the size of a high-top sneaker. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the object had all the characteristics of a newborn Great Dane puppy. But I knew such a development would have required a female dog having somehow gotten pregnant and all that. What was going on? Had I entered some kind of strange-birth twilight zone or something? True, Kai was reclining nearby, as if she’d just undergone some kind of harrowing ordeal.
At this point, I will spare you the rest of the gory details, except to say that over the next couple of hours, my parents’ basement became the Greater Great Dane Birthing Center for Clueless Dog Owners. One after the other the little rascals appeared, until at last Kai let out a long breath. It may have been a sigh of pride and contentment concerning her newborn litter. But most likely it was a cry of desperation, her way of letting me know that she’d love to be traded to a team that next time would have some idea of her pregnancy before the first pup popped out.
A new birth is a wonderful thing indeed, baby human or otherwise. And then there’s the spiritual birth the Bible mentions: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
This isn’t exactly a “new” birth, at least not the way a puppy appears onstage for the first time. I mean, the person has already been born once. This may be why Jesus called this experience being born again. In short, it’s a way of saying you’re asking God for a fresh start rooted in His grace.
Born again? Yeah, baby! Well, you know what I mean . . .