We dog sat this weekend for some friends who were out of town for a funeral. We are not “pet people” though at least one of our boys wishes we were. I will quickly add that if we were to get a pet, it would be a dog. We are most definitely not cat people.
We had a blast watching this little creature. She was friendly, playful, and mostly easy to manage. (She decided that our dining room was her personal bathroom, but even that wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.) The boys loved her and were sad to see her go when the family got back from their trip.
The things I will write from this point forward are not new. They aren’t breaking any new ground. I’m sure many others before me have made this point. Still, I felt like the reminder was important so I’m going to take a stab at it.
I woke up early one morning to take the dog for a walk. She had been inside all night and I was sure she needed to take care of business. I placed her collar and leash on her and out the door we went. Every time I walked her, she seemed overwhelmed by all the new smells and sounds so she had very little desire to answer nature’s call. She nosed and sniffed around every plant, fence, rock, and tree. It was cold that morning and we had been outside for about 15 minutes with no luck as far as the necessities were concerned, so I decided to call it quits. I called to the dog. She ignored me and continued sniffing. I called again. She ignored me again. I gave her leash a gentle tug. She refused to budge. I tugged again, a little harder this time. She decidedly paid me no mind. She turned her little head in the opposite direction and made sure to disregard me.
This dog is small. I have no idea how much she weighs, but I’m guessing it’s five pounds or less. I could be wrong about that but I’m probably not too far off in my guess. In other words, she is tiny and weak. I looked at her in all her stubbornness and I laughed. Did she actually think she could resist me? Did she really think she could hold her ground if I really wanted her to come with me? How absurd and foolish could she be to believe that she had any say in the matter at all? Long story short, we were back inside the warm house about two minutes later. We came to an agreement. I was a lot bigger and stronger than her and she had no choice but to obey. I was gentle with her, of course, but there was no doubting who was in charge. (I picked her up and carried her to the front yard and she got with the program from that point on.)
When I sat down that morning with my coffee, it struck me how often we behave like that dog in our relationship with God. God wants us to move, to take action, to do something He has called us to do, and we grow stubborn. We sit. We resist. We turn our heads away from His voice and we pretend that we have any real power in the relationship. Now, I am a firm believer in free will. I wholeheartedly believe that God will allow us to dig in our heels and refuse His leading. I also believe that when we do this, that sometimes God moves matters in such a way as to make our defiance pointless. He moves us even when we do not move ourselves. He closes doors. He pushes us by sickness, loss of jobs, other transitions in our lives. He is usually far gentler than even I was with the dog, but He leaves no doubt that He is in charge.
The prophet Isaiah asks “who can frustrate” that which “the LORD of hosts has planned? Who can turn back on His stretched-out hand?” (Isaiah 14:27). Job questions how anyone could “restrain” the Lord. How anyone could ask Him, “What are You doing?” (Job 9:12). Mary, the mother of Christ, after being told about her upcoming pregnancy says, “He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart” (Luke 1:51). Who are we to say “no” to this God who moves mountains, who shakes the earth from its place, who speaks to the sun causing it to not shine? Ridiculously, foolishly, mind-numbingly stupidly, we say “no.” We pluck up our courage and we refuse to obey.
Yet, God is “slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness.” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2.) Over and over, Scripture describes God as “slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” That is not something we deserve and it is not a license to disobey or refuse. It is a testament to this great God we serve. He is patient even though we don’t deserve it. He is “abundant in lovingkindness.” That word, literally translated from the Hebrew means “covenant loyalty.” His love and kindness, His patience and mercy are based on His promises to us. Those promises are eternal. They are fixed forever. “He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” (Psalm 95:7).
He can move us if He wants to. He can take that leash and he can pull us, with our feet dragging underneath us. Thankfully, He is gentler than that most of the time. Thankfully, He is patient and kind and He leads and guides more than he pushes and pulls.
I could have overpowered that little dog with virtually no effort, yet God’s dominance and power over me is infinitely greater. Incomprehensibly greater. Yet He is gentle and loving, patient and kind. I forget that too often, to my shame and frustration. I am thankful I was given a reminder this weekend while I waited for that dog to pee.