Spotting a sticker that invites me to honk if I love Jesus, I’ve obediently honked my horn, expecting to be greeted with a smile and a fraternal wave, only to be hailed by two upraised fingers that were not quite so conducive to fellowship.
And then there’s the sticker that announces that ‘This car will be driverless in the event of the rapture’, which is silly on so many levels, it’s not even worth a comment. But today, I spotted a bumper sticker that intrigued me. It simply said, ‘I want my dog’s life’.
I glanced at the grinning mutt that was staring back at me through the rear window of the stickered car. Its tail was wagging, which apparently means it was feeling good, although there’s been no interview with a dog to actually confirm this theory. Dogs have it pretty easy. They have no mortgage to worry about, they go to the bathroom pretty much wherever they please, and their main work is to bark at anyone who looks remotely like a burglar.
Dogs have no idea what a prime minister, a president or a stock market crash looks like.
Having a dog’s life sounded rather attractive.
But then I thought again. These days, dogs usually exist on a diet of rather bland-looking pellets. It must be irritating to have to sit, fetch and beg on command, and sleep in a wicker basket. And then there’s all the bottom-sniffing that is routine doggy etiquette when meeting a fellow dog – that’s not appealing. ‘It’s a dog’s life’ was a phrase birthed in the 16th century because, back then, dogs lived outside, were fed on scraps, and generally had short and fairly miserable lives.
As I pondered the aforementioned sticker, I wondered – do we waste time wishing that we had somebody else’s existence? We can spend our days regretting that we are not that other person who is richer, thinner, better looking, smarter, or more successful. Are we fascinated with the well-heeled and famous because we’d just love a slice of the life that they have, which surely must be happier than our own? That craving can lead to disaster, as we fritter our days away with ingratitude, longing for someone else’s wife; someone else’s life. Perhaps that’s why, when God had just ten things that he wanted to say to humanity, a strong warning about coveting one’s neighbour’s stuff appeared on the list.
But it’s not just about materialism.
Recently, I’ve caught myself hankering after an earlier version of my own existence, back to when our children were young and life seemed simpler. Nostalgia paints yesterday’s sky bluer; untamed daydreaming tomorrow’s grass greener. Endless preoccupation with what was in the past, or with what might be possibly in the future, steals our ability to be fully present in today. I was gripping hold of life so tightly that I was squeezing the life out of life.
Surely true success is found in being contented, an attitude that the apostle Paul learned to embrace. He had a rougher life than most, and would never have made the pages of Hello! or OK! Everywhere Paul went there was a riot. Assassins pledged to kill him. But somehow, he was content. I’m asking the Lord to enroll me in contentment academy today.
Perhaps here’s a step in the right direction, with this declaration: Today, I don’t want to be Tom Cruise, Albert Einstein, Gandhi or (if you don’t mind me saying so) you. I don’t want my dog’s life, my earlier life, Billy Graham’s life, or the impossibly suave George Clooney’s life.
Being Mr Clooney, just for a while, would be rather nice.
Oops. Back to school.
Jeff Lucas is teaching pastor at Timberline Church, Colorado. He is an international speaker, author and broadcaster
Follow Jeff @jeffreylucas