Our neighbor has a bulldog.  He’s adorable, except for the drool. On several occasions, he has recklessly bolted across the street, through our front door and ran around our house, always with great affection for our family and without involving destruction. Despite myself, I really love that sausage shaped drool fest of a canine.  Never in a million years did I consider that I would blog about him let alone entertain comparisons to him.  After all, I have a desperately handsome German shepherd whom I adore and would much rather be compared to.  Intelligence, loyalty, beauty – can’t I handpick what I am described as?  Apparently not.

In the last couple of weeks, I have been fondly referred to as a ‘bulldog’, tenacious and determined, unwilling to quit.  The first time it happened, I giggled a bit inside and immediately discounted the comment, other than the admiration within it.  The second time, I started to think.  And today, well, you will see where my thoughts have taken me.  Come on a little walk with me.  Unleash your inner bulldog.  (Even my precious German Shepherd is rolling his eyes at this new level of lame.)

The dictionary defines bulldog in some interesting ways. While I am short, I don’t drool much and I will not discuss the positioning of my jaws or appearance of my muzzle.  I will readily admit, however, that I am a stubbornly persistent person, who is quite willing to tackle beliefs, tasks, topics or stances, seizing them by the horns and twisting them until they are on the ground.  I’m not sure what a proctor does, but I would definitely be willing to assist them, especially if that assistance requires someone with tenacity and as long as it involves nothing in the medical field.  What I am only now starting to get a grip on is that tenacity is required in times of silence.

In musical terms, a rest is a time of silence between notes within a melody.  Rests are to be honoured, observed, and are essential musical elements that provide deep meaning to the notes both preceding and following.

Many musicians struggle to keep the time within the rest within a musical setting.  I’ve seen rhythm sections with time issues punish melodies and their band mates by rushing or delaying rests.  Solo instrumentalists are known to bend, break and altogether ignore key silences between.  Don’t get me started on vocalists – after all, as one, I have broken every rule and then some. With the kindness and patience of my long time (pun intended as always) bandmates, I have come to treasure and guard the rests within each melody.  Every musician is required to wrestle with and conquer the powerful use of silence within each selection of music.  Funny thing though, I hadn’t really applied that experience to my life. What we don’t talk about very much is the wrestling we do with other kinds of silence.

What on earth is wild success and why do finances get to define it? I think of it as a big dollar sign photo-bombing our family picture. What’s up with that? Why do we allow ourselves or others to define our worth according to the notes and not the silences?  How can we dare to presume our own and others’ value by what we produce or own? I will dare to suggest that we need to seize the opportunity to become bulldogs with regard to defining ourselves and others.

Did you know that the bulldog was once a cherished symbol of loyalty and courage, considered absolutely reliable and trustworthy with an even disposition? My pastor uses the term “unpack” a lot.  Since I appear to be preaching (mostly to myself), I will borrow it for today.  Let’s unpack this whole idea of the bulldog and the almighty rest.

No one looks at a puppy and determines its value according to its function.  It is adorable because it is.  When I look at my messy house, I fight the temptation to redefine my children according to their productivity until I remember that each is adorable because they are unique, created with a purpose, and eternally loved.  Not just by me!  That does not mean I don’t strongly encourage them, perhaps even in a bulldoggish way to get their jobs done.

When I look closely at my own situation, that’s when things become murky.  I forget that rest is a powerful gift and I begin to redefine myself according to the roles I fulfill.  What I am convinced of is that these are questions every person struggles with. Who am I when I am not doing?  Who am I when I have more or less time than I want to have? Every person is required to wrestle with and conquer the powerful use of silence within his or her own life. 

The gift of the almighty rest was unexpected.  It wasn’t what I wanted. It certainly was not on my Christmas list (any year of my life).  It was, and still is, what I desperately needed.  From the Almighty, it is almighty (as in powerful) and it is challenging and changing my life.

The Victor Talking Machine Company produced gramophones and its trademark included a painting of a mixed breed terrier/bull dog.   Nipper, the dog, had his ear set in a listening position directly in front of the gramophone with the words written underneath “His Master’s Voice”.  This says it all for me.   

For a moment, detach the image from the fact that it is a dog and sink into the metaphor with me. The bulldog sits at rest listening for the music of His Master’s Voice. So do I. 

It’s not even close to easy.  Most days, I feel like The Lord looks at me and sees the same thing I see when I say the word “walk” to my dog who starts to quiver, running around the house, jumping up so excited to be doing something. Only He isn’t saying walk, He’s saying wait. There is a discipline to this rest that I find even more difficult than braving the frenetic pace of the busy times.

Despite my natural bent to activity, I choose to honour, observe and embrace this rest for it is bringing great value to the time preceding and following. The metaphorical bulldog that I am, I will tenaciously hold on to the core knowledge that I am of great worth, not because of what I do or what others say I am worth, but as defined by the Almighty within this almighty rest.  I will seize and wrestle to the ground every thing that so easily entangles me. I think I’m starting to hear the great melody within the rest.  To be or not to be a bulldog. What say you?

(c) Sandra Foster, Ranenpur, September 12, 2013

Are you unleashing your inner bulldog? Wrestling with the rest? Drooling for an opportunity to respond?  Do tell!