As a child, I remember hearing the late days of summer called the dog days. When I asked why, the answer usually involved the heat that drained the energy out of us all, days that were too hot for dogs to even move.
I grew up in the U.S. Southeast, and it seemed to me that most days of the summer were that hot – and for that matter, much of the rest of the year. I remember those days when the temperature rose above 100 degrees. That was the real temperature, not the mythical heat index, and those days could last weeks. That kind of heat saps all the life right out of us.
Right now, where I live at the tip of Florida, the heat rarely gets above 95 degrees, but we’re having a bit of drought. Usually the summer is our rainy season. Like my ancestors who farmed, I find myself scanning the sky, hoping for the relief of rain, which never comes.
The spiritual metaphors in these dog days of summer are not lost on me.
We should expect to face similar times spiritually, but of course, they usually catch us by surprise, even though they happen regularly. What to do while we wait for the heat to break?
We can take a cue from earlier generations. When we’re in spiritual dog days, we should slow down and try not to wear ourselves out. We won’t be able to accomplish as much – but it will be OK. Cooler weather will be here soon.
In the meantime, drink plenty of fluids. I remember childhood summers as a time of sweet iced tea and lemonade. What are spiritual fluids? Scripture of course, and other books that enrich us. Maybe music, movies, other popular culture. Times of prayer.
Or perhaps our response to our spiritual dog days might be more aggressive. I remember childhood trips to the beach. Many summers we spent a week at Lutheridge, a wonderful Lutheran church camp in the mountains. Those kinds of retreats are still available to us, even if we’re grown.
I remember wonderful summer evenings with grown-ups on the porch, talking about old times and relatives I would never get to know. How I treasure those memories now. Maybe during your spiritual dog days, you might start writing down the details of your life. Resolve to write a spiritual memoir.
Even though it’s hot, there are joys in the dog days of summer: watermelon, fireflies, cook-outs, sleepovers in the cooler parts of the house, vacations, a novel that doesn’t take much concentration, blockbuster movies. We should make a list of spiritual joys to savor while the summer lingers.
One day we’ll walk outside in amazement that the winds have shifted direction. The rains will return soon, too, and if we’ve planned well, there can be sprouts of spiritual development, ready to flourish when the weather turns.