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
The morning didn’t exactly go as planned.
It was supposed to be a nice walk in the woods at a local park catching up with a dear friend and former prayer partner. Great plan. Until she suggested I bring my dogs.
I knew they could use the exercise and would love the adventure. And I could picture our little Jack—only a year at the time— 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 happened. I guess his sidewalk experience didn’t translate in 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 me and Jen 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 under leaning branches.
Through lots of laughter and panting breaths, we managed to share a bit with one another. 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 soft fur under their chins hung in soaked strings from their excessive panting. Exhaustion had so overtaken Annie that she missed out on one of her ultimate joys: feeling the wind on her face while riding with her head 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 heavily.
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 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. And we don’t get to enjoy the incomparable pleasure of just being with Him.
Funny, isn’t it, how instead of simply receiving and enjoying the blessings God gives us, we insist on striving, even in the midst of them. Rather than savoring each moment, we dart ahead to see what’s coming around the next corner.
No wonder God’s Word speaks so often of rest.
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 tug 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 …
Yet God’s Word shouts the simplicity of grace freely given, and beckons us to believe it.
You and I don’t need to keep striving after the things we’ve already been given, dear one. We need to rest in them. We 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.