I’ve learned a lot from the dogs I’ve owned.
When I was a kid we had a dachshund named Baron von Bruno. Bruno came to us from a home that also had two very big dogs. Bruno had learned that if you don’t eat fast, you don’t eat at all. To say that Bruno ate fast is like saying a tornado is a big wind—it’s a gross understatement. Unfortunately, I never really bonded with him.
Then there was Iggy, short for Ignoramus. That was an appropriate name for him, as he wasn’t very smart. A German Shepherd mix, he just didn’t understand that barking and jumping on my kids were not the right way to get attention. In spite of all our efforts we just couldn’t break Iggy of his bad habits. When he nipped and broke the skin on one of the neighbor kids, he had to go. I was the only one sad about it.
Duke was one of my favorites. He was this big, imposing Labrador/great Dane mix whose deep, ferocious bark was enough to send the postman running. Safely hidden behind that intimidating demeanor beat the heart of a marshmallow. While I have no doubt that Duke would have protected us at all costs, when he perceived no threat he was just a great big lug who loved his family. I was his favorite. He followed me wherever I went, even waiting outside the door whenever I took a bath and greeting me afterwards like I’d been gone forever. Though Duke died several years ago, I still miss him.
All of my dogs were different. Some of them were by nature compliant, others very hard-headed. Some were easily satisfied, others never so.
I’ve decided that I want to be like another of my dogs, Lady.
Lady was the first dog I owned as an adult. She was a beautiful golden retriever, and from the day we brought her home she was loyal to the core. One of her greatest delights was to obey us, so when discipline was necessary Lady would tuck her tail between her legs and plead for forgiveness. Her soft brown eyes and her whole body communicated her regret. She was always sincerely sorry and quickly learned from her mistakes.
However, there was a quirk to her personality; she would only obey us when we could catch her eye and have her look at us, or when she was close enough to hear our voice. If she were too far away she would follow her own impulses, even if they put her in danger.
One of the clearest examples of this happened as I was walking her one day. I slipped her off the leash, knowing she would stay close. What I hadn’t counted on was the arrival of another dog on the scene. When this malevolent mutt challenged Lady, she wanted more than anything to fight. Every instinct commanded her to do battle. The dogs circled each other, intent on looking a weak spot in the other to attack. I shouted at Lady to come, but she was too focused on the enemy to hear.
As panic escalated the volume in my voice, my words finally penetrated. She turned to look at me, and her self-will and the instinct to fight visibly drained out of her. The desire to please me overrode her other emotions, and she meekly trotted back to my side. Though she may not have understood why I didn’t want her to fight, she trusted me to know best.
I learned a lot from that dog.
She modeled for me the importance of staying close enough to my Master to hear His voice. When I listen to Him, I am content to do what He asks (Isaiah 30:21). When I wander too far away, I don’t even hear Him when He calls to me.
She demonstrated the necessity to look at my Master instead of the circumstances around me (Hebrews 12:1b-2a). He is a good Master. Obedience not only pleases Him, but benefits me as well. If I take my eyes off of Him, my self-will inevitably gets me into trouble.
She exemplified the reality that I cannot always understand my Master’s ways, because they are different than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). I can trust Him to know what is best, and I can always go to Him to seek forgiveness when I do wrong (1 John 1:9). He is quick to forgive, and helps me learn from my mistakes.
Lastly, Lady taught me that loyalty to my Master is to be my first priority (Exodus 20:3). He requires—even demands it—but He is also deserving of it.
When things are right between me and my Master, everything else is right in my life. Even Lady understood that.
1. Which of these are hardest for you to do; staying close to Jesus, focusing on Him, understanding His ways, seeking His forgiveness, or being loyal?
2. Why is that true?
3. How do you think your life would be different if you allowed Jesus to be your Master in these different ways?
Father, You are a good Master. I long to be like Lady, desiring only to please You, and eager to listen for Your voice. When I don’t understand Your ways, please help me to trust You to know what is best. When I do wrong, help me to quickly and sincerely seek Your forgiveness. And when other things seek to hold first place in my heart, remind me that You alone deserve it.