Training Jack

Our dog, Jack, has a morning routine. I let him outside after sweet wake up cuddles. After about half an hour he comes back inside and eagerly looks up to the shelf where we keep his peanut butter sticks. (It’s a healthy alternative to rawhide; much better for your pets.) He gets his beloved peanut butter snack, throws it in the air a few times, rolls on it in his happiness, and then devours the tasty morsel. After that, Jack and I head outside for a rousing game of frisbee. It’s a vigorous start to the day for both of us. We love it.

Once in a while as the day progresses, Jack comes inside and glances up hopefully at his bag of peanut butter sticks. “No, Jack,” I tell him, “Only one peanut butter stick a day.” What does he do? He immediately finds another toy, contenting himself with his other playful selections.

There are times, too, when I go outside to discover that Jack has, once again, been digging trenches along the fence. “Jack?” I look at him as he drops his head in a dip of shame. I patiently explain, yet again, why this behavior is unacceptable. He sits with sad eyes and head drooping. When the instructions are over I go inside. A bit later I return and ask, “Jack, where’s your ball?” Oh, happiness again! He finds his ball, trustingly brings it to me, and runs far to receive the pass.

This dog’s trust in my love for him warmly touches me. He knows I love him when I tell him yes, and he knows I love him when I tell him no. It never seems to occur to him that I could easily give up on him, give him away, or simply ignore him, doing nothing more than tossing food and water his way. No matter his naughty trench digging or ripping up his blanket — again! Jack knows all is well and that play time is just around the corner.

If only we humans could be a little more like a dog when it comes to the One who watches over us and keeps us in His watch care. Our heavenly Father knows what’s best for us, not some of the time, but all of the time. He knows when it’s in our best interest to say, yes, and equally when it’s in our best interest to say, no.

When we’ve dug trenches of bad behavior He will never turn His back on us. There may be a time of discipline, but never because He’s getting fed up with us. It’s always because He seeks to train us into His own beautiful likeness.

I know Jack is a good dog. He’s still learning and one day he will no longer be digging unruly holes or tearing up another brand new bed, leaving white foam all over the place. You and I get stronger, too, in our walk with God — as long as we listen to His instructions and continue trying.  Above all, we must hold on to the truth that He loves us unconditionally. We may be tempted to give up on ourselves, but He will always continue to fill us with His own peace and hope.

Instead of despairing when our Father tells us no, I do wish we could be a little more like a faithful dog, knowing without a doubt, He has our best interests in His heart every moment of every day.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; so not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all your do and He will show you which path to take.”
Proverbs 3”5-6

Watching Puppy Love

I visited some friends this evening who have a new resident in their home — a puppy!  To those of you who are dog lovers, you will fully understand the statement my friend made this evening as she held  onto an armful of squirming fur, “I just fell immediately in love.”  Yes, it was most evident indeed — that puppy was one greatly loved pooch and would be for all her days in her new home.

As I watched the continued demonstrations of love for this canine wonder, I could not help but think about God and His love for you and me.  However, too often, we grab hold of a great distortion of God’s love.  It seems, we sometimes feel that we have to earn God’s love.  We must obey Him in all things or He might not love us anymore.  Having those out of focus thoughts about the love of God can make us shrink back from Him rather than cling joyfully to Him.

But, mustn’t we obey Him?  Yes, we are instructed to obey God in all things.  Of course, no one is perfect and we all sin, but we always have before us a way of repentance that brings us immediately back into right relationship with our Heavenly Father.  When we sin, does God love us less?  No.  He loves us the same at all times.   If God loves us even when we disobey, then why do we need to be so concerned with obedience?

Questions like the above bring me back to my friend and her puppy.  She must teach her dog how to obey.  The dog is indeed learning but still has a way to go in knowing what is expected of her.  When she gets it wrong, my friend still loves her dog completely.  Even so, it’s vital that the dog learns to obey for her own protection and joy.  For example, if a car is coming, the dog must obey the command to “come.”   Ignoring this instruction could bring dire consequences.  It’s no different in our relationship to our Heavenly Father.

God doesn’t give us instructions to obey, as a way for us to keep His love; He gives us instructions to obey, to keep us safe and filled with His joy.  The words of a favorite hymn come to my mind, “For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

God has a right path for us to follow, totally because He loves us.  The consequences of following His path will be joy, peace, wisdom, and courage to get us through all our days — or — we may choose the wrong path if we so desire, but like the puppy who refuses to “come,” we might get run over by life’s troubles, bringing unrest and absence of peace,  that could be so easily avoided.

It’s really true the words to that hymn — “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”