by Caryl Moll
“I wish I could shake like that,” my hubby lamented as he looked at our Golden Retriever, Toby.
This morning, as the sun peeped through the curtains of our bedroom, the dogs stirred. Toby stretched his limbs and then moved over towards his canine companion, Lexi. She rose and nuzzled Toby. Both gave their first ‘shake’ of the day and paused to decide on their next step.
Over the years, this has become our dogs’ regular morning routine. It’s a collaborative effort to ‘wake us up’. They walk around our bed, moaning loudly and thump their tails against the mattress. Very effective! According to them, nothing is more important than breakfast. Sometimes our beloved pooches whip themselves up into a barking frenzy. Very determined!
“Woof! Woof! Woof!
No matter how much we adore them, it can become really irritating. At some point, we both shout out…
“NO! Go back to bed!”
Toby yawns widely, takes a moment to stretch his body out languidly and then he gives a firm and solid ‘shake’ which cannot be ignored. This shake starts at his head, moves to his ears and extends through his large body to the tip of his tail. It is loud and distinctive with skin flaps rattling across his frame. Afterwards, however, it’s as if everything is new. He quietly goes back to bed as if all is forgotten… for a few minutes.
Hubby and I lift our heads, look at each other and both say simultaneously…
“I wish I could shake like that.”
This lament is often heard in our household – the desire to shake our bodies just like our dogs do it. Their shake seems to allow all their tension to simply drip off and disappear. They look free, comfortable and happy. This event is sealed off with a languid stretch. I can’t help but think that if we could do it, it would offer us the opportunity of a clean slate to move ahead, refreshed. Yes, it may sound funny for us to shake like this, but there is some real sentiment behind our envy.
Animal behaviourists would call this “The body shake”. It’s a doggy self-calming mechanism which works to settle them down and ready themselves for their next activity. “The past is the past,” they seem to say. “All is forgotten. What lies ahead is totally new.” We could learn from them…
Don’t you wish you could shake it off like this? Well, I most certainly do.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the freedom to not over-think things; to shake off our anxiety; to calm ourselves and to simply ‘put it all behind you’? How often do we over-worry; mulling things over in our minds. We ponder endlessly over redundant issues: Why did we make that mistake? Why did we say that? Is this the correct decision? How do I deal with this? The anxiety can be debilitating.
So, how do we ‘shake it off’?
Some people attend parties every weekend in an attempt to forget their issues. Others exercise their bodies into fatigue. There’s drinking, drugs and numerous other self-destructive coping mechanisms on offer. But we may be wise to ask: How does God suggest we deal with our tension and anxiety?
In the Bible, Jesus explains:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
The promise of rest and a new slate is waiting for all of us. We are offered the opportunity of shaking it off and handing it over to our Lord. Indeed, he encourages this. But what is our hesitancy?
I would venture to say that we tend to avoid taking up Jesus’s offer simply because we are fearful of losing our own agency; fearful of being left ill-equipped to deal with whatever situation is presented. Surrendering to the will of God feels scary. Perhaps we don’t trust God enough…? We think he’ll leave us abandoned and we’ll have to ‘go-it-alone’.
But there is more good news. We don’t have to do life alone. Jesus didn’t leave us isolated on this earth. He never intended that!!
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
These passages are so reassuring.
So dear reader, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or at the end of your tether, remember that the Holy Spirit is there waiting. Jesus is waiting for your willingness to ‘shake it off’ and trust him. It’s an opportunity to start afresh; to give it all to Jesus and to free up the tension in your body. Now is the moment to trust that God has got it.
And then, when we have finally dropped our tension at the feet of Jesus…. “WAIT!” Like our beloved Golden Retrievers, it’s now our turn to wait for the Lord’s direction.
Wishing you a stress-free day.
With love, in Christ.