A fundamentalist turned freedom chaser with an obnoxiously stubborn faith.


My first dog’s name was Rebel.

He was a pit bull (ahem… American Staffordshire) with a tuxedo coat of black and white. Rebel was part of the family before I came along and when I did he appointed himself my guardian.

I’m told that he watched over me when I napped in my crib and if I stirred or cried he got my mom to come in. When I was ready to stand he let me put a hand on his back and took slow, patient steps so I could learn how to walk. He was the recipient of every plastic bandage in my pretend doctor’s kit and when I was sad or scared or felt alone, Rebel was there with his giant head and never-overwhelming “sugar” (our weird family word for dog licks). Once when a neighborhood dog was threatening my brother and I, Rebel chased him down and I thought he might kill it even though it had a lot of girth on him.

Rebel did not live up to his name. He was not anti-authority or oppositional. He was compliant and obedient and he made me feel safe. Rebel died, as dogs do, and I could not go to him for the un-aloneness I depended on him for. How many times has the same thing played out since then? What I need supplanted by an absence?

But I love that this grounded place for my childhood had a name and that it’s name means so many of the things I’ve grown into. Because, like the streak of white on Rebel’s jet black head, something in me has not blended in.

There has always been a quiet insurgency under my “yes sirs” that wondered why and pushed for answers. But I didn’t always trust it like I trusted Rebel. I haven’t always taken steps confidently without holding onto something that felt sure.

Until what felt sure shook and cracked and fell away. Then, as you will recall in whatever comes to mind for you, there is no choice.

There is a great line in the bible about not conforming to the patterns with which you are most familiar in preference of a transformation that will result in your realized potential. You have to move stubbornly against the comfort and safety you have carved out for yourself.

It takes a fair amount of “fuck this” which is essentially the definition of a Rebel. The truth is, revolt is necessary, I think, for all of us.

We must shout NO to the ever-tempting neural pathways of a mind that needs renewing if we are ever going to see who we could be. We have to want it like a slave wants free, like a prisoner with nothing to lose hiding contraband under his pillow.

That’s the theoretical. The poetry around the gritty reality of a life given over to the kind, but brutal work of alignment with the Good. It’s all fine and well to wax lyrical about an inner heroic rebel, but when my period is coming and I’m irritated by every sound and my kids won’t get on my schedule and anger is boiling and they drop a glass cup that shatters who am I, really? Am I fighting in that moment against the patterns of the world I’ve created? Maybe, on a good day, I’m at least grunting against it, but the result is generally not pretty and does not resemble being “transformed by the renewal of my mind.”

It is kind and brutal work. Just like the pit bull whose jaw slacks at a child’s curious hand in its mouth, but locks into the scruff of a threat against that child. Because after I have bitched out at my family and found myself so very much un-transformed, I have learned to also find grace. Humility, apology, as much repairing as possible, and an inner solidity I can put my hand on as I stumble toward who I am becoming. Slow, patient steps. Keep moving even when you fall.

I want to be better. More generous, more compassionate, more open. I want to eschew criticism and comparison like flies, easily, with the flick of a hand and no more time spent. I want to find God’s image in everyone, even the most odious actors I encounter, to see them as the beloved children of my own precious creator that they are and insist on their innocence even when they seem happy to discard it. I want to act as though the stuff Jesus said is true: that this place is beautiful even now and that there is enough of everything for everyone.

It’s a tall order and rebellions don’t happen without communion. Often violent and hateful, but in agreement nonetheless. And this rebellion is no different. I cannot do this alone, cannot renew my own mind, cannot muster from my own strength the ability to act out of a hopeful vision, a promised reality.

And I don’t have to. Whether a childhood dog or an inner voice or a friend who texts me “this is so weird, but I felt like I had to tell you…” I am never alone in this endeavor, in the becoming. I always, always have a place to put my hand.

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