Our 4 month-old golden retriever puppy humbles me. Daily she points out, albeit inadvertently and unintentionally, how much more I need to grow.
“Lucy,” as she’s affectionately been named, is the 4th dog I’ve trained. If you’ve raised and trained a puppy and then had children, you understand that dog training is a lot like raising kids:
- Start with the basics.
- Ask for something just once and then follow up, otherwise you teach them not to listen to you.
- Affirm like crazy.
- Major in the majors.
- Have play time daily.
- Don’t ask them to do something they aren’t capable of doing.
- Set them up to succeed.
- Be gentle, but firm, and always consistent.
Be real with them. (Dogs love to comfort us, so do our kids when we hurt and it helps our credibility with them)
I marvel at how God created golden retrievers. Deeply wired into the fabric of who they are as a breed, is the desire to please their master. I don’t find it coincidental that God created them like this.
I wish my nature was exactly the same, actually.
I won’t go as far as to say that I’m just like our beagle from years ago, Floyd, however. We loved him to pieces for the short 8 years he lived with us, and yes, he was just the cutest thing ever, BUT…he was stubborn, rebellious, never remembered his training (and I can’t tell you how many classes we took that insolent creature to, nor how many unproductive hours were wasted reinforcing and practicing) and he STILL could only focus on his desires of the moment. And that’s what got him killed. One day, after pulling against his leash until his collar broke, he freed himself to chase a rabbit…and caught a station wagon. Ironically, this happened a week before the fence we purchased for his protection (from himself and his wild ways) would have been installed.
Beagles, and humans, can be a strong-willed lot.
When one accepts Christ and chooses to follow Him, we accept the yoke of the Father. Over and over again, we are called to lay down our own desires, sacrifice our own will on the altar, and choose to obey Him – but sometimes we don’t. Our lives are better when we do, but like a young puppy in training, a strong-willed toddler, or rebellious teenager, we often don’t trust Him enough to really believe He wants what’s best for us. And based on how we are wired (beagle versus golden retriever) sometimes we make it even harder on ourselves.
In leash training Lucy, we discovered she resisted being led at first. Too immature to understand the joys of “going for walkies,” she either dug her feet in, refusing to budge, or lurched against the leash. I tried making it fun for her, using treats to motivate her, but knowing that I wouldn’t always walk her while holding smelly food in my hand, I pulled out the pinch collar. As a training device, it’s more humane than the commonly used “choke collar” which cuts off the air supply and can injure the dog’s trachea. Conversely, the pinch collar puts pressure on various points around her neck, getting her attention. I tried it on myself before using it, and found that while it was uncomfortable, it didn’t cause pain if used correctly. Its purpose is gentle correction.
She stopped resisting immediately. And, just like Daisy, after one use with it, I only have to put it on her (and not even connect the lead to it!) for her to be completely obedient. She responds with obedience to just the smallest nudge of discomfort. Eventually, as she matures, she won’t even need the collar to do the right thing. I remember putting the pinch collar on the beagle…and like everything else, that didn’t work, either. He was horrible on a walk, always pulling, trying to go off on his own way. His independence eventually killed him. While I loved him to pieces because he was ours, his death was somewhat of a relief to me, and while I cried when we lost him, I didn’t miss the daily arguments for control and submission over what should be simple and small things.
I’m thankful for God’s attitude toward us. His love is longsuffering, perfect in every way. No human’s love (save Christ, Who was also God) even comes close to comparison.
I must confess, too often, I need to understand “Why?” before my heart fully embraces obedience. As I grow in my walk with Him, those moments of disobedience, and a questioning heart (which I think is a form of rebellion) are fewer and farther between, but honestly, my heart doesn’t always fully leap into doing what is right. I long for the time when not just my mind acts in obedience without full knowledge of the “Why?” of a situation, but I yearn for the time when my heart not only accepts, but rejoices when God allows suffering in my life to refine me. And like the pinch collar, I so desire to respond to life circumstances, His discipline, and His teaching without even a nudge so my behavior, character, and thoughts are taken up another notch on the journey of Christ-likeness.
1 Samuel 15:23
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
This day I pray for myself and for you, that we would be more like golden retrievers, eager to please the Master, obeying His Word at every turn.
Double-Dog-Dare you to commit to knowing His Word daily, so you know what’s expected! J
Privileged to be on the journey with you,