“Mom, where are the dogs?”
I peered out from under the blankets through sleepy eyes at my son, who was standing at my bedroom door. His voice sounded worried.
“Mom, the dogs are missing. They aren’t in the backyard!” He spoke even more urgently.
Now that woke me up in a hurry! I jumped from bed and ran down the stairs, as if looking for them myself would make them magically reappear.
Our old black lab and our yellow lab puppy were nowhere to be found. The gate left cracked open on the side yard gave a clear indication of how they made their escape.
“Mom, it’s my fault,” Derek confessed. “You dead-bolted the front door last night, so I went through the gate to come in the back. I guess I didn’t make sure the gate was closed tight.”
I felt like it was my fault. If I hadn’t locked Derek out, we wouldn’t have been facing this problem. But either way, the dogs were definitely gone.
We ran to the car, calling our dogs as we circled the block.
“Daisy! Duchess!” No answer.
We drove through several neighboring developments, craning our necks and hoping to catch a glimpse of yellow or black fur. Where do you look? They had been gone for more than six hours by then! I felt sick to my stomach. My only consolation was that both dogs had collars with tags on that identified them. Hopefully, whoever found them would call us.
I could see that Derek felt terrible. We love our dogs and take the responsibility for them very seriously. It hurt to think of them roaming around lost, hungry and thirsty by now, unable to find their way back home. We didn’t know if they would even stay together. The older lab, Daisy, could barely keep up with the young and energetic Duchess when we took them walking. I had visions of Duchess, unleashed and free for the first time, bolting and leaving Daisy in the dust.
I was actually grateful to have to go work later that morning. It sure beat sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.
Derek was so upset that he went looking for them for more than two hours that afternoon, just driving around and randomly stopping people on the street to ask, “Have you seen my dogs?”
“No…” was always the heart-breaking answer.
At one point he even stopped two bicycle policemen. Though they hadn’t seen Daisy and Duchess either, they did take down a description. They also noted that Derek was wearing a Round Table pizza work shirt. A half hour later he received this phone call from them.
“We’ve found your dogs.”
Somehow they had ended up in the storm drainage channel that was quite a ways from our house. The policemen had been unwilling to go down into it to get them, partly because it’s never a good idea to approach strange dogs, and partly because of the steep, slippery slopes and filthy water of the channel.
When Derek arrived he found both dogs standing miserably in dirty runoff water up to their haunches. As soon as he called them, they barked joyously to see him, but they weren’t able to climb out by themselves. He never hesitated, but immediately clambered down the sharply sloping cement and carried a frantically happy Duchess back up. Leaving her with one of the policemen, he took a leash back down with him and helped pull Daisy out as well. Then he took those dirty, smelly, soggy dogs home with him.
How wonderful it was to have them back!
As I thought back over the day, I remembered a comment that Derek had made while we were driving around.
“Stupid dogs,” he’d spouted angrily. “Why would they run away from a place where they have food, where someone takes care of them, plays with them and loves them?”
Oh, the wisdom of that simple question. Why would those foolish dogs run away from home?
My dogs didn’t understand that fences were not designed to keep them imprisoned, or to keep them from experiencing something better. Quite the opposite. I love my dogs, and wanted them to stay where they are protected. Where they are safe. And where they will ultimately be happiest.
After the first rush of excitement I’m sure my dogs only wanted to come back. The kind of undisciplined freedom they experienced isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but they could never have found their own way home. So because Derek loves them he went looking for them, found them, and brought them back. Daisy and Duchess returned home after their adventure cold, hungry, dirty and smelly. Yet their return was still celebrated, because we were so glad to see them.
Oh, how I can relate to my dogs. There was a time in my own life when I decided that I knew better than God did where the fences in my life should be. I felt that His boundaries were unreasonable, intended to confine me, and I craved the freedom that escaping them would bring me. I was determined to live life by my own rules. And since God gave me freewill, He left the gate open for me to go.
It felt wonderful at first. The freedom of not having to answer to anyone for my choices felt heady and exhilarating. I ran with that freedom, but what had seemed to promise joy only brought great pain, and I began to be homesick. Homesick for my Savior, because He knows me; tired of the freedom that failed to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart; hungry for all the good things that God had planned for me and I had rejected. And I wanted more than anything to be with Him again.
Because He loves me, Jesus came looking for me. He knew I couldn’t find my way home without Him. He didn’t care that I, too, was smelly and dirty and cold. He washed me clean and He celebrated my return.
I’ve experienced living life apart from Him, outside His loving boundaries. And it stinks. I never want to leave Him again.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees…It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:67-68, 71)
For you were like sheep (or dogs, my words) going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25)
- Have you ever deliberately walked away from the Lord?
- What were the consequences?
- What did you learn from that experience?
Father, it was indeed good that when I went astray I did not find the freedom I’d anticipated, but pain that I did not. It caused me to want to come home. My heart is full of gratitude that in Your compassion You came looking for me, in Your mercy You forgave me , and in Your love You welcomed me home. I want to stay with You always.