Who’s Leading Whom?

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

It wasn’t exactly the morning we’d planned.

Summer had changed things for my prayer partner and me. Life took us in separate directions, and our weekly time of kneeling together at the mercy seat had been relegated to a few catch up phone calls and some prayer texts. We decided to break our summer rut of not seeing one another by meeting at a local park for a walk.

Great plan. Until my friend suggested I bring my dogs.

I knew they could use the exercise and would love the adventure—they love going anywhere in the car or on a leash. I could picture our little Jack happily bounding along with his heart full of wonder on only his second time exploring a trail.

But I also knew having my little darlings along would greatly alter the dynamic of our time together. I wasn’t sure. She said bring them. I brought them.

Excited is a bit too small a word to describe Jack’s mood.

All his lessons of heeling calmly at my left vanished as though they’d never taken place. I guess he couldn’t make the connection between the sidewalk and the woods.

I found myself severely tempted to take him off the leash. He repeatedly bounded ahead up the trail, darting from one side to the next sniffing everything, often tying Jen and me up with crossed leashes. And there seemed to be some discrepancy between the dogs over who deserved the right to lead. Let’s just say Jen and I didn’t set our pace.

We told ourselves they were just excited and would soon calm down and keep pace with us. It was a good thought.

Little did we know that half way around the loop the trail would narrow to single file, only intensifying their bids for first place. Up and down they pulled us, over fallen limbs and through leaning branches. But that wasn’t the worst part. The spider webs were.

I guess that part of the trail isn’t traveled much. Every few steps I felt thin strands of webbing stretched across the path breaking against my face. I could never see them, but I always felt them.

Through lots of laughter and panting breaths, we managed to share a bit about what God’s been teaching us. I love that He sits at the center of every thing.

But I can’t help thinking how much more enjoyable our time would have been without all the tugging and straining. Not just for us, but for the dogs.

By the time we made it back to the car, the thick, soft fur under their chins was soaked and stringy, coated in drool from excessive panting. Exhaustion had so overtaken Annie that she missed out on one of her ultimate joys: feeling the wind on her face as she rides with her head jutting proudly out the window. Apparently after all that exertion, it was too much effort to sit up and rest her head on the car door. Instead, she lay sprawled on the seat, panting and drooling.

I had a mess to clean up when I got home.

We may chuckle at the silly antics of lesser creatures, but God’s been showing me lately that we humans are a lot like those dogs. We insist on striving and straining for more, always tugging at God, trying to pull Him in the direction we want to go. And we want to get there fast. But all our tugging only pulls us further away from Him.

Funny, isn’t it, how instead of simply receiving and enjoying the blessings God gives us, we toil and strain, even in the midst of them. Instead of reveling in the moment, we dart ahead to see what’s coming around the next corner.

God isn’t holding back from us, dear one. He’s always giving. That’s His nature. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and He loves so deeply that He gives (John 3:16). He’s simply waiting for us to receive. Yet instead of resting in what God is giving, we strive and strain, trying to force our way into grace.

I’ll let Paul ask you the question God’s been asking me.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Galatians 3:2-4

Beloved, no amount of striving on our part will usher us into what faith alone can reach.

While I can know that truth in my head, I still often find myself compelled to want to do something to catch myself in the flow of His grace. Reason suggests: If I … then God will … So I weary myself proclaiming scriptures and asking God for His promises I’m desperate to see lived out in my life.

Yet God’s Word shouts the simplicity of grace freely given, and beckons us to believe it.

Two nights ago something happened that threatened to rob me of peace. Climbing into bed, I settled under the covers, fully aware that I was entering my weakest hour. The enemy loves to attack with raging thoughts when I’m supposed to be at rest.

Normally, I would pray something like, “Lord, help me to rest. Quiet my mind. I need your peace. Please, God, grant me rest tonight.”

That night I offered a different prayer, a simpler one. I simply stated my belief in what God has already given me through Jesus.

“Lord, you have given me peace. I receive your peace. I have the mind of Christ. I receive your thoughts. Thank you, Lord, for the gifts of grace you’ve lavished on me.”

That night I slept like a baby, and I don’t mean the kind who wakes up screaming every hour.

You and I don’t need to keep striving after the things we’ve already been given, dear one. We just need to believe God when He says that we have them and press in close. Exercising that faith ushers us into His abundant grace.

Oh, how I love Jesus.

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