Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How do we follow God in the 21st century? Ask your dog

On Wednesday, my parents left for a short holiday leaving Sally, our American Cocker spaniel and I home alone. Home alone together, to enjoy the sometimes beautiful and sometimes torrential, weather of the Pacific Northwest. Sally would hope that her master would take her on a few walks around the neighborhood, or at least throw the ball so that she could exercise her increasingly creaking, aging legs. I was enjoying the rest, the first round of the NHL playoffs, and hoped to spend some time at the gym so my legs do not become creaky as well.

Soon after my parents left, the Internet and e-mail connection, the lifeline to the outside world, crashed. Therefore, instead of walking Sally around the neighborhood, she followed very close behind me as I practiced the ‘stair master’, running between my computer and my Dad’s office upstairs, trying to fix the internet connection. Three days of hopeful yet pessimistic prodding of computer wiring resulted in nothing.

The one consistency I noticed as I ran up and down the stairs was this, Sally never ceased running the staircase with me, always only several inches behind me, always anticipating that I would answer her prayer for a walk, and always wearing a panting smile on her face. I often became perplexed, even frustrated by her persistent and joyful devotion to her master. Why won’t she just go lie down, why does she have to risk being accidentally kicked in the jaw by a wayward heal?

When I leave for work in the morning, I always lock Sally behind a baby-gate in the family room. Her forced obedience speaks volumes as she slowly turns around to face me, sitting and shaking. Her two, huge black eyes watch me in expected anguish, as I leave and she begins to burst into tears. Whether it is several hours or ten minutes, her squeals of excitement, which sound more like a dog’s cry for help, are an inevitable greeting when I arrive home, or as my mom prefers, ‘have risen from the dead.’ When I finally open the door, her squeals continue until i take down the baby-gate that keeps her imprisoned in the kitchen, and she can smell the scent of her rescuer. Only at this time, will she eat the food I have left for her because her self-inflicted hunger strike can finally end, and she can enjoy the fruits of her labor, which are, as it is written on the side of her doggie dish; to eat, sleep, and play.

As I have watched Sally’s excited expectation and anticipation of her master’s next move, she has taught me a great deal, about how Christians should act towards God. The Psalms are full of questions and statements, showing the psalmist’s desire to spend time with God, to receive something from Him and a desire to do things for Him to quicken His return to them.

Animal activists have often reminded us that animals share and understand more of our heartfelt emotions than we give them credit for. As I read the Psalms, it is obvious that the psalmist is talking to God, whose ways are greater than his are. In the same way, the thoughts and actions of humans are greater than those of their pets. However, it does not mean that we cannot learn a lesson or two about the Bible, from our furry friends. After all, God created them too.

For instance, Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your Heart’s desires.” It is easy to see the delight that a dog takes in his master. Whether I take Sally on a walk, throw the ball for her off the deck, or allow her to follow me as I run up and down the stairs trying to fix my internet connection, Sally’s panting smile remains glued to her face and there is nothing I can do to change it.

A few psalms later, is a song that Christians worldwide sing regularly. “As the dear pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) As I sit here, writing at my computer, or Dad prepares a sermon on his laptop, Sally can often be found guarding the doorway, always at the service of her master, ready to jump to her feet just in case he calls her name.

Because of actions like these, I would contend that the greatest characteristic dogs are known for is their devotion to their masters. Psalm 86:12 talks about the devotion that David offers to the Lord. “With all my heart I will praise you, Oh Lord, my God. I will give glory to your name forever.”

Sally’s devotion to her master often amazes me. Her deep desire to please him, to hear that she is a “Good dog,” or hear him answer her prayers for a walk are always first on her mind. Do we humans want to please our Heavenly master as much as dogs want to please theirs? Is it our first desire to hear God say, “Well Done, good and faithful servant”? We humans should follow the example of our pets as we work to devote ourselves to our true Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have become my food day and night,

while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember as I pour out my soul:

How I used to go with the multitude,

leading the procession to the house of God

with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God.’

Psalm 42:1-5

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey David,

Your story truely is amazing - and your life an inspiration. I've been blessed and challenged by the choices that you have made - and feel so strongly that God's had is so intentionally on your life. I'm excited that you are seeking Him and want to encourage you to keep pressing on - you are vital to His plan to build the Kingdom.

Rohan, from India