Jan Johnson

Wisbit - June 2013

Dog & Cat Theology

“Dog and cat theology” sounds like this:

The master feeds his dog and pets her, and the dog gazes up into the master’s eyes and wags her tail and thinks, He must be God! But when the master feeds his cat and pets her, the cat gazes up into the master’s eyes, arches her back and thinks, I must be God.

Dog theology: gratefulness to God whom we know exists, on whom we depend on all day long, in whose companionship we thrive.

Cat theology: self-absorption and forgetfulness of God who longs to be with us, provide for us and even partner with us in showing love to others. (That forgetfulness has been called “practical atheism,” meaning that in the practicalities of the day, God doesn’t really exist for that person.)

Dog theology is living in reality; cat theology is living in an unrealistic bubble of me, myself, and I, which is not reality, only an imagined one. Reality, you wonder? Gratefulness puts us in touch with reality, meaning that everything we have, we have received, beginning with oxygen to breathe. After that, it’s all gravy. The good things that occur all day long come from an attentive God who delights in loving us. The consequences throughout our day come from our own mistakes or others’ mistakes, and we have to “bear with” them.

I confess I live in cat theology part of my day. My thoughts center around me--getting my work done, making sure I have all the things I need to do it, being glad I am recognized for accomplishments and resentful when I’m not. Yes, I manage to be kind and caring but everything comes back to me and how I feel about things. This automatic tendency to focus on self is normal for humans. In blunt terms, it’s self-absorption.

I want to move to living more in dog theology—content under the watching eye of the Master. As I live out of the different reality of the Kingdom of God, I can focus my attention on how God might be using me in this moment and find joy in partnering with God, even if no one notices what I’m doing. In fact, I forget to notice that I haven’t been noticed.

As I recognize that God is God (as my daughter’s dog Max knows she is god), I can be constantly thankful for all kinds of things: that I figured out how to make my phone do that tricky thing I hoped it could do; that my husband and I figured out a way to make our favorite oddball sheets fit our bed; that God uses people in our Celebrate Recovery group to say exactly what I need to hear; that even though a fire raged in our hills last week, it was quickly extinguished and now creates an oddly beautiful blackened hillside contrasting with the verdant shrubs and sandstone of this valley.

In dog theology, I get that God is really God, and that all of life is a gift from God. As for the parts I find difficult, God walks with me and so I still have reasons to be grateful, to be mindful of God’s companionship. In dog theology, I set aside by pathological self-obsession because I realize I really do count! I am healed because I have an experience of being adequately loved by the Creator of the universe.

“When we submit what and where we are to God, our rule or dominion increases” (The Divine Conspiracy). Today I submit each thing I’m going to do—how I enter into my writing project and my Jazzercise class, my treatment of my husband, kids, friends, co-workers as well as strangers who email me. That means I ask God for help with these things and I look to God for opportunities to bless people. Jesus is my Master, and I’m glad to be along for the ride.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson



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