The Kicked-Dog Syndrome

I call it “the kicked-dog syndrome.”

When you’ve gone through a series of disappointments and hurts, any time something good comes about, you’re skeptical.  You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.  You know the good times won’t last, and you’ll be back in the valley of despair soon enough.  With any hint of trouble, you flinch like the kicked dog. 

What you long for is stability.

When I came through Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I thought that I made it through my life struggle, and now I can get on with my growth graph moving up and to the right.  But then I hit a major ministry setback in 2009 with multiple staff and volunteer moral failures that I had to confront.  A few years later I stepped into a new ministry assignment with, again, high hopes for life to move forward in a trajectory of growth and happiness.  But then the other shoe did drop.  Since then, it’s been mountain top to valley back to mountain top and back to valley.  And every time I feel like I’m on the mountain top, I flinch with even a hint of bad news coming my way.

What I find happening as a result of my neurotic flinching is that I yearn for stability but wind up with mediocrity.  I don’t want to try new things, new adventures, new vision, because the kicked-down syndrome “kicks in.”  “You don’t want to step out in faith.  Remember what happened to you last time?”  “Don’t put yourself out there, because you’ll only be met with disappointment.”  And the malcontent voices of the past drone on.

But today is a new day, and I’m calling on all of us who have been kicked down not to be counted out.  “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 5:8-9).  

Spring is about to be sprung!  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18).  “The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  “He who was seated on the throne said, `I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5).

We need stability, but we also need faith—faith that God isn’t finished with us yet; faith that our future is bright, our hope secure, and our longing will be rewarded by His coming.  We need strength to stand and the willingness to leap.  Eugene Peterson says, “For Christian living demands that we keep our feet on the ground; it also asks us to make a leap of faith.  A Christian who stays put is no better than a statue.  A person who leaps about constantly is under suspicion” (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 171).  

Stability should never lead to mediocrity; it should lead to the eventuality of God doing something new.  With feet on the ground, let’s make a leap of faith.  Don’t listen to the past voices of the kicked dog.  Now is the time to let sleeping dogs lie.