A Lent lesson from Call of the Wild

When I was a little girl, I wasn’t allowed to have a real dog, so I had literary dogs. I read every dog book I could get my hands on—books like The Incredible Journey, Old Yeller, Ribsy, and on and on and on. Each of the dog characters was very real to me, dog-less child that I was.

I especially loved Buck in Call of the Wild. He was strong and brave. Men disappointed him. Men redeemed themselves. Through it all, Buck gave himself wholeheartedly to everything. I could picture him, a large, handsome sled dog who would have been perfectly happy to be curled up on the foot of my bed on a cold winter night.

The new Call of the Wild film brings Buck to life in a very compelling way, though Buck is, in fact, as real as the dogs I imagined sleeping on the foot of my bed when I was a little girl. He’s computer-generated—a somewhat disappointing realization.

Still, this Buck is extraordinary. He’s compassionate and wise, amazingly expressive, a natural leader, a fast learner, and a talented sled dog. When he and the team of dogs are pulling the sled together across the snow, they are joy in motion, happily working as one, stretching themselves to their limits. In fact, it might be worth seeing the movie just for the scenery. But it also might be a movie that could frame a Lenten journey.

At the start of the story, Buck has an easy life. He’s thrown into an adventure he doesn’t choose. Along the way, he discovers his inner wolf. He begins to hear and respond to the call of the wild. By the end of the story, he is in a completely new place.

He’s stronger and has a clearer sense of purpose. He has learned to take care of those around him. He knows how to fight for himself—and for those he loves. He masters some lessons he would surely not have chosen for himself, but—because of how he rises to the occasion along the way—he emerges not just surviving, but thriving.

As we begin our Lenten journey, we cannot know what we will experience through these 40 days. We don’t know what obstacles and opportunities life will present. But Lent can change us in positive, beautiful ways if we are open to how God is working in our lives.

Lent is a time to seek out God and listen for His voice. What might He be calling us to in this season—and beyond? What more—or what different task or approach—could He be asking of us?

We don’t need to embark on a journey through the frosty wilderness of the Klondike to make this a wonderful Lenten season. We can encounter God in simple, meaningful ways in our ordinary, everyday lives.

And, if we are open to God’s work in our lives, this Lent might be an extraordinary adventure.

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.