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How Do You Stop a Barking Dog?

October 13, 2011

“Woof, woof, woof…WOOF, Woof, woof…WOOF, WOOF, WOOF”

This had been my greeting every time I stepped into the backyard for the past month; and on this afternoon, I was tired and irritable. Furthermore, the blueberries needed picking; and I was going to have to listen to those stupid dogs the whole time. For 20 minutes I plucked berries from the bushes and thought unkind thoughts about the three dogs on the neighbors’ deck. What I couldn’t figure out was why the noise didn’t drive my neighbors crazy the same way it bothered me.

Then it hit me, the sound had become white noise to them. They’d heard it nonstop for the past five years, and they’d learned to tune it out.

White noise is defined as, “A steady, unvarying, unobtrusive sound, as an electronically produced drone or the sound of rain, used to mask or obliterate unwanted sounds.”

I would hardly define the dogs barking as unobtrusive, but it certainly was steady and unvarying.

Well tune this out, I thought to myself; and I began to sing “Amazing Grace” at the top of my lungs. Something inside me said I was being immature, but something else inside of me didn’t care. Oh did I sing.

A-maa-zi-ing grace, how sweet the sound,

Woof, woof, woof

That saved a-a wretch like me.

Woof, WOOF, WOOF

I O-NCE WA-a-S LOST, BUT NOW A-aM FOUND;

WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF….

At the three-minute mark, I began to feel some shame, but I didn’t inherit my mother’s stubborn streak for nothing. I picked up the volume and started into the third verse for the second time.

For eight minutes I kept up this nonsense before finally coming to my senses. I probably should have chosen a secular song, I thought to myself. And if the neighbors above me heard me; so did everyone else in the neighborhood.

I slunk into the house with a red face.

However, the most amazing thing happened the next day. I stepped out onto the patio to water the petunias, and one of the dogs, as usual, spotted me and began to bark. It didn’t take 15 seconds for the owner to grab that dog and drag him inside. In the following weeks, the same thing happened every time I set foot in my backyard.

I had broken through the neighbors’ “white noise” syndrome. They had become aware of the barking dogs at last; and oh heavens, they did not want me to start singing again.

Sin can become white noise in our lives too. The sound of sin is first offensive and awful; but the more we allow for it, the less abrasive it becomes until one day, sin seems normal and people who oppose it are just lacking a sense of humor.

Unfortunately, those who are no longer bothered by sinfulness have allowed their consciences to be dulled just as Paul warned in I Timothy. “Having their conscience seared with a hot iron.”

Once we’ve ignored and abused our consciences, we are no longer able to distinguish right from wrong.

“To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” Titus 1:15

Don’t let sin become so normal in your life that you no longer see it for what it is.

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