I was on my morning walk when I saw ahead of me a woman with a dog on a leash. The dog was growling and barking and acting like he was going to tear someone limb from limb. The woman and her dog were passing by some other people who were out for a walk that morning, and they were giving their full attention to this aggressive hound. In all fairness it was a miniature poodle, a little white ball of fur that may have weighed a pound or two but he was lunging, pulling against the leash, barking, growling, and trying to get to those folks who were passing by.
The people walked on by and the dog calmed down a little bit until he saw me. He started up his antics again, barking and jumping toward me. I asked the woman, “Is that a pit bull?” She laughed and said, “No, what he is, is a Tasmanian angel.” I said, “Really?” She said, “Yeah, he’s the sweetest dog I’ve ever had except when he sees somebody he wants to attack. I don’t know why he does that, but he turns into the Tasmanian angel.” Of course she had developed this character by putting together the Tasmanian devil, an actual creature that lives in Australia and also appears on American television as a cartoon character, and substituting the word, “angel,” for “devil.” In her mind, she saw her little pup as a mixture of both.
As I walked away after our one-minute visit, he stopped his barking and lunging and waited for the next victim to come along. I walked on down the road thinking how much that little dog is like many of us — maybe all of us, especially those who have committed our lives to the Lord Jesus and want to be what God would have us to be but find ourselves at times being a Tasmanian angel. Maybe the best known of all the biblical characters who seem to be like that is the great apostle of Jesus named Peter.
On the one hand, Jesus declared, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). On the other hand, it is also Jesus who said to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23). Strange, isn’t it? All of us have our finest moments when, before God and even before man, we want to be the best we can be to bring honor to the Lord and glorify His name. On the other hand, we make decisions and act and react in ways that not only discredit ourselves but demean Him before man and make it appear as though we are not genuine.
Maybe all of us have a tad of the Tasmanian angel lurking in us. Sometimes we smile and at other times we scowl. I have known some people in my life who were born with a smile. Their facial qualities frame their mouths into what appears to be a smile though it may not really reflect their feelings. On the other hand, I’ve known people who seem to have been born with a natural, built-in scowl.
At their happiest moments in life, their faces are shaped like it is the worst day in history. In reality, when you’re around folks who have a smile, you begin to realize that there are wonderful days, positive days, that their ways are filled with joy and goodness. On the other hand, there are days that the clouds have moved in and the news is bad and their decisions were wrong and they wonder if life will ever be good again, and they display their scowl.
It is fair to say that no one lives on the front edge of the joys of life every moment of every day, though we may want to be there. I think it is fair to say, too, that no one is totally obsessed with having a scowl and an irritated manner about anything and everything. There are surely exceptions to this on either side. The folks I’ve known have walked with a smile at times and at other times, if ever so infrequent, a scowl.
I think about that truth being extended to our faith, that most of us at times have hope and at other times we mope. At our good times, our best times, our God-is-in-control times, we have hope for the future. We truly believe that God is on His throne and we truly believe that God reigns in the hearts of His people and we have hope — but then things go wrong. Circumstances change. People show a different side of themselves and we get down, maybe down and depressed but for sure we do not display the great hope we once had.
As I was thinking about the Tasmanian angel and even the great disciple Simon Peter, I thought about how many times we may be eager and then later be meager. It was Peter who spoke up when Jesus told him that He was going to Jerusalem and die and Peter said, “No, but I will go with you. I will die with you.” Peter was so eager to display his total surrender and commitment to Jesus but later that courageous, energetic eagerness turned into mild and almost unseen meagerness as people asked him, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?” Three times he denied he even knew Jesus (Matt. 26:69-75).
Here’s the wonderful thing that all of us need to consider: God wants us to be our best. He wants us to be on the upside, the hopeful side, the eager side, the God-honoring side, and even when we are not He still loves us, still reaches out to us, still wants to restore us, and He still wants to use us. I have seen that in Simon Peter and in many folks that I have seen through the years — including myself — and I pause to bow before our living Lord and ask Him to take my small life and give me a smile that comes from Him, a hope that is in Him, an eagerness that will honor Him.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.