Lessons From My Dog

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Annie at the Beach

My dog adores me. She longs to be wherever I am, so much so that she views separation from me as punishment. The moment she sees me slip on my shoes, she bounds to the door in hopeful expectation that she will accompany me in the car. Very often, she gets her wish and proudly takes her place in the front passenger seat.

But on those occasions when she must remain at the house, a different dog emerges. My joyful, wagging ball of fur deflates before my eyes, pathetically slinking away to a spot on the other side of the kitchen table where I can no longer make eye contact. I know she’s made it to her destination when I hear her collapse to the floor with a forlorn grunt.

I can’t blame her, really. She can’t understand my reasons for withholding permission. She doesn’t know that this particular destination would mean a long wait for her in the car, or that the heat might be too much for her to tolerate. She just knows she didn’t get what she wanted.

By the time I arrive home, however, her joy at my return erases any bad feelings over my departure. Her entire body wags with excitement as she strains to greet me with kisses. Then she resumes her vigil, attentively positioning herself wherever I am in the house.

She will immediately rouse herself from slumber to follow if I leave the room. And if she senses I’m not happy with her behavior, she instantly tries to remedy my displeasure.

She will tentatively approach me, laying her head down in humble submission, begging forgiveness. And of course I grant it, affectionately stroking her head to reassure her of my love. She is, after all, my treasured possession. How could a loving owner not be moved by such blatant devotion?

I often think of how God must respond when His children—each one His own treasured possession—react to His presence that way. How He must delight when we long to be with Him and eagerly rise to follow Him. How joy must fill Him when a wayward child offers Him a sincerely repentant heart. I imagine He smiles with compassionate understanding when we question why He withholds things from us but choose to offer our love anyway in affectionate trust.

“The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6

Oh, how God delights when our actions reflect adoration. Unfortunately, I believe we more readily tend to imitate my dog’s other prominent behavior.

She loves to accompany me when I swim laps in the pool. Only she doesn’t join me in the water, keeping pace with me. She races along the edge with one clear objective: to beat me to my destination.

She will pause momentarily at one end of the pool, just long enough to gauge where I’m headed. Then she runs to the other side and waits there to greet me. The moment I reach the wall and push off for the next length, she’s off again. Occasionally, she moves so quickly she loses her footing and falls in. After swimming swiftly to the stairs, she climbs out to begin again. Eventually she collapses, exhausted.

Sometimes I wonder why she doesn’t just jump in and join me. She would certainly reach our destination at a far less frantic pace. She might even discover the joy of rest along the way.

Jesus offers the same suggestion to us.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

Jesus desires that we draw near to Him so He can lead us into His Father’s will at a restful, steady pace. Yet He watches many of His dear ones hustle around the outskirts of His progress appearing to participate without ever actually getting their feet wet.

Still others are so eager to please Him that they continually run ahead of Him. They’re so busy trying to guess where He’s going that they miss joining Him where He is. Their frantic scurrying causes them to forfeit what He really desires most: companionship.

Which of my dog’s traits best reflect your relationship with God, dear one? Is your highest priority remaining in His presence? Or do you scurry about Him without ever actually joining Him where He is? Perhaps it’s time to choose the way of rest.

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