By the Scruff of the Neck

(Author’s note:  Today marks the fourth anniversary of my brother’s untimely death. While I have read a river of books and devotionals on grief, I do not claim to be an expert. I just know that eventually we will all experience the ebb and flow of emotions that accompany any significant loss, especially death. Yet hopefully, we will make the effort to wade through our feelings and embrace a faith that not only keeps us afloat, but carries us through both the calm and the whitewaters ahead. Jonathan, this one’s for you.)

Nantahala Outdoor Center

Ever wonder why dogs and cats have all that excess skin on the back of their necks? You know, that soft wrinkly fur-skin that often gathers and folds over the collar? In many mammals, the nape or back of the neck is the site of the scruff, a loose, non-sensitive area of skin by which the mother can carry her young, holding the scruff between her teeth.

Thank you Wikipedia.

So there you go, the scruff. Extra skin that serves to provide extra protection when used by a mama for her young. And honestly, there were days when my children were babies and toddlers, when the scruff could have come in handy. Instead it was ponytails and shirt collars!

They all survived.

But what if there’s more to this scruff than meets the eye? What if this “loose, non-sensitive area of skin by which the mother can carry her young” actually exists, if not literally, then spiritually, in each of us?

What if our “spiritual scruff” is the means by which the Father can carry His children when strength fails and hearts grow weary? It sounds almost painless and even comforting to have a Heavenly Father who will rescue and protect us like the mammals He created.

He will and He does.

Yet, in My Utmost For His Highest, OswaldChambers says, “We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t. The Christian life is one of incarnate spiritual pluck.”

And sometimes we must.

We have to take ourselves by the scruff and shake off the mood or the bad attitude and make a choice.The Bible repeatedly reminds us that we have a choice. God commands, but we choose. We choose to love. We choose to obey. We even choose life or death, blessings or curses.

Perhaps it all comes down to this. Do we choose God or do we choose ourselves?

Today, I choose to take Oswald’s advice. I choose to take myself by the scruff of the neck, shake off the blue funk or the bad “tude”, and claim the promises of God. Promises like I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Promises like His grace is sufficient and His power works best in my weakness. Promises like in this world you will have trouble, but take heart. Jesus has overcome.

Today, I choose the incarnate life of Christ to reach from within and around me to the scruff, to take hold of me, pluck me out of the pit, and into the safe refuge of His mighty, downy wing.

In the midst of grief, I choose life in Christ.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Pray with me. . .

Lord, take us by the scruff and lead us to the life everlasting. Amen.

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