I mentioned in my introduction that I have a high maintenance dog. I’m assuming you’d love to hear more…
When Sachi was a puppy, she ate a patch of carpet from our family room, and needed emergency surgery to get it out of her system. While in there, the vet discovered she has “sticky intestines” that can get tangled on themselves, and cause doggy-appendicitis and other ailments like not being able to easily poop carpet. Ever since her surgery, she’s been confined to eat a food called “low residue,” which of course is only available from our vet with a prescription, and costs more than it should, but somehow helps her stay alive.
Besides this special food, she also has to take steroids every other day or so. If she doesn’t take the steroids, she goes on a hunger strike. But if you give her steroids too often, she turns into a ravenous beast, lurking around the house looking for used Kleenex to eat, among other things (dirty diapers, etc. — use your imagination). So, for me, being a dog owner is a balancing act of finding just the right amount of steroids to keep this animal alive, without it getting so hungry that it tears apart our trash looking for human waste.
Does this sound like fun yet?
Another high maintenance thing: sleeping. For years, Sachi slept downstairs, in her crate. No problem. But after hitting 10 years old (we didn’t think she’d live past 2), she became an ornery old lady-dog, and took to barking in her crate in the middle of the night. No amount of smooth talking, yelling, or taking her outside would get her to be quiet. Once, I got so frustrated, I took her on a walk around the block at 4am, only for her to break free of my groggy leash-grip and chase after a skunk and get sprayed. At 4am.
Needless to say, the dog sleeps in our room now. Which is a constant pleasure, because she’s a loud sleeper. Lots of snoring, re-adjusting, moving around, flopping on the floor, sighing, smacking her lips, and sometimes having dog-dreams that cause her to whimper and move her legs like she’s running.
All of this is why I no longer refer to her by her actual name, and usually just refer to her as “The Genius.”
The cookie incident
The other day, Kim was baking cookies, and Willa, who was home from spring break, called out for help from the den where she was coloring. At that time, The Genius was also in the den pretending to eat her low residue food. Kim left the kitchen for 30 seconds to go help Willa with her art, and when she got back to the kitchen, found that the dog had eaten 16 raw cookies.
So, this is sad. The oven was warm and the cookie dough was on the counter, on the baking sheet, ready to go. But in 30 seconds, Sachi had bolted from the den, pulled the parchment paper from the baking sheet, and wolfed down the cookie dough, chocolate chips and all. Chocolate is bad for dogs…
I was at work. Kim texted me “the dog’s gonna die” and I said “it’ll probably throw up but not die.” Guess who was right.
Needless to say, after the cookies, The Genius didn’t want dinner. I knew what was coming and didn’t sleep very well with the dog in the room, her stomach a ticking time bomb. Sure enough, at midnight, I was awakened by a familiar retching sound, and found myself awake, unhappily cleaning dog vomit off the carpet.
For those of you new to this: the goal of this activity is to get the majority of the vomit off of the carpet and into the trash, using paper towels. Then you clean the carpet with rags and chemicals. Bonus points if you can keep your hands clean.
That only works if the vomit is mostly solid. This was liquid. Yes, I’m trying to gross you out.
I won’t talk more about it, but let’s just say that when I was done cleaning, I had to wash my hands with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch… and I had a mound of nasty, filthy rags ready to go in the washing machine — rags that were stained with my brilliant dog’s bile, cookie dough, liquified chocolate chips, and other nastiness.
On the rag
Bait and switch time. Don’t worry, it’s not a sermon.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. — Isaiah 64:6
If you’ve heard this particular part of the Bible taught from a Christian perspective, you probably have heard that it means something to the effect of “humans can’t please God on our own, and that’s why we need Jesus.”
(That’s not actually what it means.)
I’d love to talk about what it really means… but it will take a while. So before that, let’s look at the actual words.
Surprise trivia: “filthy rags” is a deliberate mis-translation of “menstrual rags.” Yes, that’s right folks, the metaphor the ancient Hebrew writers used to describe something detestably unclean is… a used Maxi pad. A bloody tampon. (Read that in a British accent for greater effect.)
From an article called “Sugarcoating the Bible” by an Old Testament professor:
Since most readers of the Bible do not understand how seriously people in ancient Israel viewed the uncleanness caused by bodily discharges, they would not understand the concept of a menstrual rag. Thus, translators try to use an expression that conveys the idea of something repulsive, such as a “filthy rag.”
If we were writing the Bible in 2017, knowing what we know about the importance and beauty of women’s reproductive processes, we would obviously choose another metaphor for the “unclean”… perhaps, dare I say, a rag dripping with liquid dog vomit.
Agree? Great. Moving on.
Wait… hang on a second.
You Christians say the Bible is somehow the “word of God” — right? So…
Is “menstrual rag” the “word of God?”
Is God a misogynist?
(Is that why you voted for Trump?)
If God “wrote the Bible,” wouldn’t he have at least been smart enough to realize that we’d be offended by it, thousands of years later?
If these kinds of questions make you uncomfortable, or maybe, you want to ask these kinds of questions but don’t want to offend/question God… you’re not alone; I used to feel the same way. But what I’ve learned this past year about the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and Jewish interpretation is, these types of difficult questions are expected to be asked by God’s people.
And since we are all God’s people… let’s not shy away from asking hard questions.
Besides, if the god of the Bible is indeed the god of the universe, who created everything — matter, energy, quarks, atoms, stars, planets, rocks, flowers, Justin Biebers, and zebras — then I think he can handle some difficult questions from you. (Unless your name is Job. We’ll get to Job another day.)
The very name “ISRAEL” — given to a dude in the book of Genesis, originally named Jacob, after he spent the night wrestling with an angel — means “struggles with God.” There’s a whole lot more to that name and that story, and there are many diverse interpretations and lessons to learn from Jacob’s encounter… but that’s exactly the point.
Let’s struggle together.
Using this “filthy rags” passage from the Old Testament as a springboard, I’d like to explore:
- Jewish midrash and Biblical interpretation
- Prophets and the Babylonian Exile
- Spiral Dynamics and early Biblical writing
- Reading ancient spiritual documents
- What the Bible is actually all about
It’s a lot to talk about and I’m clearly not an expert on these topics. But over the past year, I’ve been learning many new things, and un-learning many old things — working hard at tearing down some old assumptions and my incessant over-confident evangelical fundamentalist ways of thinking — and found something much richer on the other side.
If that interests you, look for more posts from me very soon! (It’s way too much content for one blog post.) Thanks for reading. Love, Jamie.