Lent: Character Growth

There’s few things that build Character like problems.

How we deal with an issue that arises defines and shapes our character. If it’s a previously encountered issue then we can refine our responses. If it’s a new experience – good or bad – we define them.

This evening I encountered an issue. I heard screaming in the road outside our home. A woman’s voice screaming for help. Adrenaline wasn’t an issue. I picked up the first heavy, blunt and useable object I could find – a walking stick – and ran out to meet the assailant in battle if necessary.

I was confronted with two large and aggressive dogs tearing apart a smaller dog. No hesitation, I charged at them, screaming and swinging the “club” I was carrying with full intent of killing them. The small dog was still alive, but after the tow assailants had run off I knelt down and looked at the small bleeding bundle they had left. It’s injuries were severe and it was obvious, even to my untrained eye, that this sweet dachshund type dog was not going to survive the injuries. The owner was by this point being comforted by someone else, so I did the only thing left to do. I knelt down and gently stroked his head, whispering to him and felt his pulse. It weakened, got slower and then stopped.

It’s shaken me. It’s not the first dog to die in my arms, and I daresay it won’t be the last since I have 3 of my own. But it’s the first time I have to comfort a dying animal that has been so savagely attacked.

I prayed over it, commanding the pain to ease and peace to fill him. His struggling eased and he calmed as I prayed, and I know my prayer was heard and answered.

There’s a neighbour I’ll call Bob who I’ve not exactly seen eye to eye with. He’s my mum’s peer – late 60s/early 70s – who doesn’t approve of how I keep my dogs. Now it’s true we don’t get to walk them as often as we’d like, but they get our undivided company most of the day and sleep in our bedroom overnight. Nobody can claim we don’t love those animals.

Bob suggested they should be put to sleep a while ago as they make noise barking. Which is news to us. Tonight was the first night I’d met him face to face. He saw first hand how I treated the injured pup and he was singing my praises. Then I introduced myself. His response was immediate.

He apologised to me.

Now up to this point I imagine you thought I was going to write about my own character. Wrong.

Bob, it turns out, is an older chap who just wanted peace and quiet in his retirement. There are a lot of dogs in the area, and they set each other off. Ours were just the last straw the day he spoke to my mum – we’re staying with her for now.

After he saw me with this little injured pup, and watched me comfort it as it slipped from this world, he softened. His real character showed through. His compassion for animals. His respect for animal lovers. We both learned something about each other, and suddenly there is respect in place of antagonism. He saw me rush to help a woman I’ve never met from two attacking dogs I didn’t know to save a dacschund. Even though I wasn’t able to help it live, I was able to give it a dignified end.

It changed the relationship to mutual respect.

Which grew both our characters. For now at least we have put aside our difference of opinion and uited in a display of unity.

Character develops over time. We need to understand the need for this development as it allows us to grasp what God has for us. Our character is designed to reflect His. We need to be passionate and resilient. Forgiving in our pain, and slow to anger. When we do anger it must be from a place of righteousness – covered by the Blood of the Lamb.

We want to have character NOW. It’s the fast-food mentality we are stuck in.

It’s also insane. We can’t build character in a week any more than we can train for a marathon in a week. Character requires perseverance, which requires stamina. Stamina can only come through time. Granted many of us have both good and bad stuff in there, but character allows us to recognise them and act appropriately.

So in the last week or so of Lent, let God start to work more deeply onj your character. Allow His hand to guide you to be more like Jesus in all the areas of your life, and recognise His hand in the situations you come across.

I know I’m going to.

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