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Groundhog Day


The Life Less Traveled


February 01, 2012
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for celebrating Groundhog Day. I mean, who wouldn't want to fly to Punxsutawney, Pa., to watch Phil the Groundhog predict the weather? How can you argue with the 20,000 people who gather annually at Gobbler's Knob for this beloved tradition? I'm sure most of it is great, but one particular groundhog event scheduled for this year sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

They're calling it the "Best Dressed Groundhog Day Dog Competition." According to the folks at www.groundhog.org, you can dress your dog as an actual groundhog or in festive Groundhog Day attire. This is a bad idea on so many levels.

First of all, what exactly is festive Groundhog Day attire? Is it the top hat and fancy coat like the groundhog handlers wear? If that's the case, there's no way you're getting that on any dog with an ounce of self-respect. Second, if I pass on the festive attire option, where am I supposed to get a groundhog costume for my dog? They're not as common as you might think. And last, but most certainly not least, has anyone thought through the ramifications of unleashing a bunch of dogs around a groundhog?

I hope Punxsutawney Phil is faster than he looks, because I've seen what dogs tend to do with furry, woodland creatures, and it's not pretty. Instead of seeing his shadow on Feb. 2, I'm afraid the groundhog is going to see his life flash before his eyes. Canines and rodents are natural enemies, and, if you throw them together in the same place, you're asking for trouble.

I've seen people like this, too: oil-and-water personalities that when thrown together just don't mix. Just as some people experience love at first sight, I've known others to experience dislike at first sight. It's not just that they don't have anything in common. It's deeper than that. Even when they try to be civil to one another, sparks inevitably fly.

I've had a few of these myself over the years, and it always takes me by surprise. I genuinely like people. Because I'm fairly easy going, I can get along with almost anyone. Almost. Every once in a while, a groundhog personality comes along that fires up my canine instincts and tells me that we are not going to be best friends.

This doesn't mean they're bad people. It just means we're a bad combination. For me, these are usually people who come across as arrogant, judgmental or fake. I'm sure that to them I come as something equally unlikeable.

The crazy thing is that oftentimes these are genuinely good people who others absolutely adore.

So, what do you do with people like this in your life? What do you do if you have to work with them, go to school with them or, better yet, what if you're related?

Here are a few things I've learned over the years to navigate these potentially combustible relationships.

1. We're all wired differently. God has created each of us with a unique personality and approach to life. Get online and check out anything you can find on the Myers-Briggs personality profiles. This has been a great tool to help me to learn how other people see the world, how I can learn to speak their language and how they can learn to speak mine.

2. Everyone has a story. If I take time to find out where a person has come from, what their struggles have been and what God's been doing in their lives, it reminds me that this person isn't my enemy. They're a real human being trying to figure out life just like me. I can't possibly understand all that they've been through and what it's like to be them, but I can do my best to understand where they are in their journey.

3. These people can help me. Bumping up against those who frustrate me gives me the opportunity to grow. Growth just isn't always much fun. The Bible says that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Yes, sparks fly, but that's what knocks off my rough edges.

4. Grace always wins. God loves me despite my selfishness. God loves me despite all of my junk. I now have the chance to show my gratitude to God by extending the same grace to others. Just because I have bad chemistry with someone doesn't mean I can't cut them some slack. In fact, it's people like this that grace is tailor made to fit. My relationship with God teaches me how to respond to people who are hard to love.

So, we're not going to be best friends with the entire world, and everyone we meet isn't going to like us. That's OK. We can still love them, respect them and learn something from them about ourselves. After all, if Punxsutawney Phil and a bunch of dogs in festive Groundhog Day attire can come together for an annual dog show, then surely we all can learn to navigate the difficult relationships in our own lives.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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