The Bark and Breath of the Enemy
All my life I have retained a vivid recollection of times and events throughout my childhood. As age creeps upon me, I have started to make lists or notes to myself about things I don’t want to forget. Sometimes I will walk into a room then try to figure out why I did so. I joke with friends by saying that my senior moments are turning into senior episodes. Despite the episodes, the portion of my brain that recorded my childhood is functioning quite well. I can even recall conversations, sounds, odors, colors, and temperatures of uneventful moments like they happened a few hours ago. I would say yesterday, but some of yesterday has already erased itself. Psych! I’m kidding about that one.
Anyway, as I recount for this writing, I was in the second grade at Green Elementary School in Knoxville, Tennessee. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the second grade was walking home from school. Excluding the days when schools were closed due to inclimate weather, I was escorted in the mornings by my mother or Aunt Bessie, and I walked home with my neighbor friend.
There was a green-eyed mutt about the size of a golden retriever that lived about 2 blocks from my house and he would chase me every single day. He absolutely terrified me. On the first day of school my mother and I walked on the side of the street where the dog lived. The yard to its house had a fence, but there was no gate to the driveway. Therefore the dog was able to come in and out of its yard at will. He was lying close to the fence and didn’t move as he watched us pass by.
After school, my friend and I like most of the children, walked on the other side of the street. At the intersection before the house where the dog lived, I saw him standing on the sidewalk. When we got close to its house, the dog started crossing the street. When he ran up to me and started growling and barking, I screamed and ran. As he chased me, I could feel his breath on the back of my calves. There was a light at the intersection. It was red, but I didn’t even know it because I was so afraid and running for my life.
I thank God for sparing me because all I heard was the sound of brakes from the cars travelling in both directions trying to avoid hitting me. I saw nothing but the curb on the other side of the street and I was running for it. After I made it, I didn’t stop running until I got to the porch of my home. I was screaming, crying and banging on the front door. One of the drivers had parked and was on our porch by the time my mother opened the door. He told her that I ran through the intersection and was nearly killed. I was so shakened, that whatever else he said was a complete blur. That was OK because some of it was not too nice and it upset my mother. After he left, she calmed me down and I was able to tell her about the dog chasing me. She reassured me that the dog did it only because I ran when he barked. “Let him bark, but don’t run,” was her advice.
The next morning as she walked me to school, the dog was lying in his spot by the fence. He watched us but didn’t rise up or bark. “See, he’s not going to do anything to you,” she said. “Just remember, let him bark, but don’t run.” I felt relieved that the dog appeared totally harmless.
On the way home, at the corner, I saw the dog standing in front of its house. As my friend and I got near, it was a repeat of the day before. He barked and I ran. But when I got to the corner of the intersection he stopped chasing and went back home. I was shaking and crying but I had enough presence of mind not to run through that intersection again. I caught my breath and waited for my friend so she could walk the rest of the way home with me. This time, I didn’t say anything to my mother about the dog. I figured since he chased me just to the corner, that he might not do it again. I was wrong. Everyday, the dog would look at me on the way to school but after school, he would bark and chase me.
The routine between me and that dog became a treat for the other kids. We never failed to give them the pleasure of a good laugh. They joked and teased me at school, but I didn’t care. Each day I was determined to be brave and not run, but the bark and hot breath of that dog was always the giant faith eraser. The only consolation I held on to was that he would only chase me to the corner then turn around and go back home. He didn’t bother any of the other children and I was his exclusive chase for the whole school year.
During the month of May, our school observed a celebration called May Day. According to Wilkipedia it is described as follows: May Day was taken up in America as a socialist movement celebrating workers’ rights, a tradition that remains strong in Europe. All told, modern May Day celebrations today have evolved into a hodgepodge of traditions including parties, sing-alongs, Old World maypole dancing, parades and workers’ demonstrations, along with general protests against Big Business on the streets of major capitals worldwide.
I was one of the students selected for the wrapping of the Maypole during the May Day school-ground festivities. My mother dressed me in a new pink dress complete with starched underslips to make it stand out, ruffled socks and ribboned hair. I was all dolled up and anticipated the fun the day would bring. Then I got a wonderful surprise during the festivities. My father had accompanied my mother to see me wrap the Maypole. She took photographs of me with her little Kodak Brownie camera. (I’m not telling you what year that was either). I was so happy to see his face in the crowd of other parents and family members. When I got the chance to talk to him, he said my mother had to leave but he was going to wait and walk me home from school.
My father was a wonderful man. He worked an early shift for Alcoa Aluminum and usually got home around 2:00 p.m. During the spring and summer months, he liked to take long walks in the evening. My greatest joy was accompanying him when he took the short walks. When we were a few houses away from ours, I got foot rides. He would let me stand on his feet as he held my hands and walked the rest of the way home. The next best thing was when he pushed me on the swing so I could go high in the air. It felt as though he was helping me leap into the clouds.
When I met my father when school was dismissed, my mind was on getting a foot ride. It was also the first time he walked me home from school. I was estatic until we got to the dreaded corner. I had forgotten about the source of my terror until then. I tightened the grip I had on my father’s fingers. When he looked down at me, I guess he could tell by my expression that something was wrong. And he asked “What’s the matter?” By this time, the dog saw us and was starting to cross the street. “The dog Daddy. That dog is going to chase me because he chases me everyday,” I replied. “No, he’s not going to chase you,” he said. I started trembling and tried not to cry but the tears fell like rain. I moved closer and held onto the leg of his pants with both hands.
The dog was in the middle of the street and started to growl as he looked at me. I was ready to run but my father tightened his grip on my shoulder then yelled at the dog in a loud voice, “Get back over there!” The dog stopped in his tracks and tucked his tail between his legs. When my father shouted again, “Go,” he ran to the doghouse in his yard.
I had never heard my father raise his voice before. He was a soft-spoken man of a few words, and sometimes you had to strain to hear him. He was over 6 feet tall, muscular and strong, so I never knew his quietness to be misinterpreted as a weakness by anyone. When I saw what happened with the dog, all of the anxiety and fear left me. I was so glad that I got a reprieve from being chased that day. And the other children didn’t get the chance to laugh at me.
The next day was another story. Since my father was not with me, I was prepared to run. As my friend and I got to the corner, the dog did his usual thing. We neared the middle of the block, but this time for some reason I wouldn’t look at him. I thought about my father protecting me the day before and kept walking. He didn’t growl or bark as he stood in the middle of the street. After we passed him, my friend looked back then whispered to me, “He’s going back to his yard.” I was so happy and afraid at the same time that I could have wet on myself. Then for the next two weeks that were left of the school term, I was able to walk, not run to the corner of my block. Never again was I chased by the green-eyed mutt with the terrifying bark and hot breath.
My father passed away the following year in April. When I think about all the wonderful times I had with him, his loving care and gentleness, I am also reminded of how his voice and his presence eradicated a frightening situation in my life. In fact, he never asked me anything about the dog. I guess he had confidence it wouldn’t bother me again.
The dog had watched me and knew I was afraid of him. He had access and opportunity to chase me, and if he wanted to bite me, he could have, but he didn’t. Maybe the dog thought that chasing was my way of playing with him. Who knows what and how dogs think. I just know he wasn’t fun. When my father told the dog “get back over there,” he was commanding him to get back where he belongs. And I was liberated from fearful encounters with it.
In the introduction to my first book “Pray What God Says” I relate how Aunt Bessie told me that my father was in heaven with God. Then she said God would be like a father to watch over and care for me. And He has demonstrated that He has been and is continuing to doing so. The scriptures say we have protection from the enemy, satan. He has already been cut off, limited, judged and condemned by God.
Like that dog, satan intimidates, pursues, threatens and causes us to fear for our spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental well-being. When things go wrong with our life, health, finances, and relationships, we feel discouraged, anxious and think he has complete control of our circumstances. But satan is a thief, liar, deceiver and murderer. He comes to steal, kill and destroy anything and anyone he can get access to. But the blood of Jesus was shed to deliver us from all the work, plots and plans of the enemy.
When we decree and declare the Word of God—the scriptures—over our situations, we are reminding satan of where he belongs. We also remind ourselves about the nature and virtue of God, our identity and liberty in Him. There is continuous and unfailing access we have to Him and His covenant promises.
Isaiah 41:10-14 (New Living Translation)—Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and humiliated. Anyone who opposes you will die and come to nothing. You will look in vain for those who tried to conquer you. Those who attack you will come to nothing. For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the LORD, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.’
As long as we have the Word of God—His scriptures—and His holy presence, we never have to fear the bark and breath of the enemy.
Excerpt from the new book by Christine Brooks Martin
Inspirational Stories & Poems
To be Released late December 2011
Areli MediaWorks 2011