The officer walked with purpose, sharply turning, marking out a random pattern on the lawn in front of his audience. His faithful canine partner kept pace with him, stride for stride, never leaving his side. A sharp right… three more paces… then a sharp left. The dog’s head was cocked sideways. He never once looked in the direction he was going. His eyes were locked and focused on his master. He trusted his master’s movements and dutifully followed him every step of the way.
Then it was time to show the audience what the dog could really do. Another officer lumbered onto the lawn. He was covered nearly head to toe in a cumbersome “bite suit” – a thick, heavy canvas suit designed to protect the wearer from the sharp teeth of a canine. As the officer explained to the audience what they were about to see, the dog suddenly became fixated on this giant “play toy” with arms and legs walking towards him. He began to bark loudly as if to say to his master, “Look! Look, dad! See that giant toy? I want to get the toy, dad! I can get it for you? Can I, dad? I can do it! Can I please go get it for you?!”
The grip of his master restrained him. He leaned against the leash striving to be released, yet staying by his handler’s side. The officer made several warning announcements to the other officer in the bite suit, while the canine echoed them in barks. Then finally, the command was given and the leash was released. The dog took off like a furry bullet, tackling the officer in the bite suit with one leap and gripping the arm of the suit between his teeth like a vise grip. His tail wagged as ferociously as his bite. He tossed his head from side to side never releasing the canvas “toy” from his grip. The canine handler then came alongside him, grabbed his leash again and gave the command for the dog to release his grip. The dog jerked his head a few more times, just to get those last few playful tugs in for good measure, and released his clenching grasp.
As I watched the demonstration I couldn’t help but see a parable. The relationship between canine and handler should be the kind of relationship I have with God.
First, I need to practice daily that simple basic obedience of keeping my eyes on Him. God should be the one leading me and not the other way around. My attention should be focused on Him, not on the many distractions all around me. My countenance should be one of complete trust, content to go wherever my Master leads me. Step by step, turn by turn, my heart sold out for my Master; no one in my life more important to me than He.
Second, when I see an opportunity arise to use the talents, gifts, skills and abilities I have been given, I need to recognize it as a chance to bring my Master glory. I need to tune in not only to how He’s created me to be used in the world, but to His will and desire to use me in it. Only then are my eyes diverted and yet not so that I pursue that goal on my own. No, I need to speak. Through prayer, I need to lift up the opportunity to Him and express my eagerness to pursue only what is His will at His command. The eyes of my heart must remain on Him while I obediently wait by His side, anticipating with all my heart His release.
Watching a canine waiting to be released gives a whole new meaning to the word “wait.” They are straining at the leash, leaning on it with all their weight and strength, trusting that their master has them in his firm grip and won’t let go until the timing, his timing, is perfect. Oh to wait like that, to strain with all my might but in utter trust that I am being held back by the One whose timing is perfection. That is the third lesson. When was the last time I was driven so fiercely to bring God glory. How often have I waited for an answer from Him with doubt, dread, or whining instead of eager anticipation of Him opening an opportunity for me?
God wants to “unleash” all of His children into this world to bring Him glory. We are not His pet, but His tool. He knows exactly how and when He wants to use us to show others who He is and the love and salvation He has for them. But, how many of us as believers just want to live our lives like pampered puppies – a little kibble, lots of play time, a walk and then a nap? That is not the life God has called us to. We need to be training ourselves daily to walk in obedience to Him. We need to be aware of the gifts He has given us and tuned in to Him inquiring as to how He wants to use us in our sphere of influence. And we need to wait in eager anticipation – ready, willing, and able to be ourselves in the world so that we can bring our Master glory.
Lord, you are a good and patient Master. Forgive me for the times I have tried to lead you. Teach me daily to walk in obedience, to keep my eyes fixed on you, and to trust where you are leading me. Help me, Father, to better understand what you have given me in terms of my gifts, talents, skills, and abilities so that I can be in tuned with you as to how you want to use me. And Lord may I eagerly await every opportunity you put in front of me, trusting your timing but never waning in my eagerness to bring you glory. And, thank you, Lord, for dogs! You teach us so much from the animals you have put in our lives. Continue to teach us more. It’s in your Son’s name we pray, amen.
(This post was originally published in August 25, 2012. Some updates were made to this version.)