Thursday, May 8, 2008

Shaping -- Hope Chronicles 41

As you all probably know by now, I adore my talented cats. (For talent proof click here.) Teaching Mali (though today I did get Katy to do "UP" three times), has largely been tied to the idea of shaping and rewards or positive reinforcement.

Teaching Katy to beg for her treats was probably the most straight forward thing I've taught either one of them. I keep a can of hard treats on a shelf above the TV. I went and patted the door to get her attention. When she simply came over to where I was, I praised her and gave her a treat. But this wasn't the exact behavior I wanted. I wanted her to paw at the door and ultimately "meow" for her treat. I patted the door some more and she hopped on her hind legs to see what I was doing with my hand just out of reach. Treat.

We did this for several more days and she got the idea that if she pawed at the door, I would come over and give her a treat. (So maybe she ended up training me!) Finally, I decided to move onto the "meow." She did what I now considered her ask for a treat and I went to the TV but I didn't move to get the treats. She pawed some more. When no treat was forthcoming she let out a plaintive "meow." She got lots of praise and a couple treats!

It's called shaping because you start by rewarding an approximation of something. We do it with babies all the time. We want to see them crawl but we praise and encourage them if they make it on their knees or rock back and forth. We reward an approximation of something, the effort.

Honestly, I have been much more focused on training Mali than Katy. I taught Katy over a year ago to ask for a treat and then dropped the whole thing training aspect with anything else. Perhaps at that point it didn't dawn on me that I could train her to do other things. When I saw a book at the store and perused it, it mentioned starting when they are young. At 3 Katy is hardly old, but Mali is younger so I focused there.

I enjoy those little moments teaching Mali. Today, I thought, "Why not give Katy a chance?" It took a little coaxing and I had to use just the right food, but she got "up" for me.

So, how does this apply to hope and God? When I first taught either of them a trick, I had to be patient. I couldn't just say "ask" or "come" or "up" and have them know what I wanted. There was a learning process.

I'm fairly patient with them and children, but I lose patience so easily with myself. Why didn't I do it perfectly the first time? In my mind, an approximation of something doesn't count for me.

But when I really stop and think about it, all of life is an approximation. It is all learning. Carolyn Arends is my favorite Christian artist. She has a song called Getting Ready for Glory. It talks about how this life is all about getting ready for the next. It is, I believe, shaping and conforming us to Jesus likeness so that we are ready to meet God.

Here's a bit of the song:

She's had 80 some years,
Most of them good,
But she's not gonna be here much longer
Now the body gets weak
Like she knew it would
But the spirit just keeps getting stronger
She's got her Bible and hymn book beside her
She storing those songs and old stories up inside her

She's getting ready,
She's getting ready,
She's getting ready for glory.

She knows all of the verses
to How Great Thou Art
And her soul it doth magnify often
And she's gonna keep learning
the scriptures by heart
til the day she is laid in her coffin
She wants to be sure when the angels come take her
That's she's got some greetings for meeting her maker

There's more, but you get the idea. This life -- the joys and sorrows, the hardships and comforts, the triumphs and failures -- is all about shaping us and getting us ready for glory.

The idea of everything shaping me for God puts hope into every bit of what happens in my life.

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1 comment:

Lelia Chealey said...

This was a great picture for me. I too am impatient with myself, especially when I fail.
Love the process you showed with your cats. Oh, and love those cat eyes!!