Many people didn’t care for Jesus’ message. His closest followers had questions…
“It’s a dog’s life,” Jesus said, one day.
Several of the disciples nodded, one or two smiled, Peter said “pfft.”
They all looked at him. “What? Really? You think so?” he said. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Jesus, but things aren’t going great lately. The world’s not an easy place and people are struggling. Sometimes your ‘don’t worry, be happy’ message is a little hard for people to take.”
The other disciples were shocked and looked awkwardly at the ground. Jesus just smiled.
“Don’t worry, be happy,” Jesus repeated. “I like that. It should be a song. One day maybe.”
Peter just huffed. “I’m just trying to be realistic, Jesus. It’s a dog’s life? If only we could lie around all day, get food and water when we want, play with toys when we want, that would be great. But it’s not like that. Yesterday you were talking about being like birds or flowers or fields of grass. ‘God provides,’ you said. But it’s not like that for us. We have to work and fight for everything we have or we’ll have nothing.”
By now, Peter began to notice the silence. None of the others were looking at him, except Jesus. Peter sighed.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s very realistic, okay?”
Jesus nodded a few times. “I hear you, Peter, and thank you. I appreciate you saying something. I know you’re not the only one who sees things that way. But listen, the thing about the birds and the flowers, dogs, other animals even, the thing is: they don’t do nothing.”
Peter looked at the others and they all looked a little confused. “Was that a double negative?” asked Matthew, who appreciated good grammar.
“Exactly!” exclaimed Jesus. “it’s not about just believing that God will take care of you and you don’t have to do anything. The birds, the animals, the flowers and grass already live in relationship with the world around them so that they have all they need. Each has a place in the web of creation, each relates to earth and sky and air so that they are fed and watered, each gives and receives in its own way, as needed. That's the greatest beauty of creation, that it works in relationship within itself. At least,” Jesus paused, “ all of creation but you and me. We must choose to. We often don’t. And when we do, yes, there is work to be done.
“I’m saying we shouldn’t focus on the stuff. You want to because you can see it and feel it. It’s what you think is real, and it is. But what if we could change how we look at life to be about what’s truly of value first: the things that are truly life-giving. Love. Caring. Kindness. Respect. That’s what I mean when I talk about finding God in your life. What if we could find empathy with each other and share what we need rather than worry about what we want. We all have so much to share.”
Peter looked unsure. “I’d say that’s a lot of work, especially in the world we live in.” Others nodded. So did Jesus.
“Yes,” said Jesus, “but imagine how different the world would be! You know, Peter, you thought I meant a dog’s life was great. But when people first started saying that, they meant the opposite. Dogs worked hard. Some still do. But whatever work they do - even as pets - it should be about making a relationship that benefits everyone. Just like the birds, the flowers, the grass and all the rest of creation. It’s not ‘don’t worry, be happy.’ It’s don’t be afraid, find the joy.”