There was a beagle named Ellie. She was new to our home, a gift from a relative, and she came to us as a completely untrained young adult. She challenged my exercise routine and my walk with God.
Beagles are drops of laughter from God’s creative heart, and Ellie was no exception. She loved life and running and sniffing and trailing. She ran with her tail curled in a perpetual crescent moon above her back, reminiscent of the sideways smile at the end of an email message. She broke into full song at the slightest provocation – a cat, a rustling leaf, an interesting smell – and when she ran, her whole body shivered with the pure thrill of freedom and life and running. She could jump four or five feet straight into the air, reminding us of a dog on a cartoon. Her exuberance triggered laughter as we watched and breathlessness as we walked. As I participated in her walks, I often thought that this was life as God intended it – Garden of Eden joy – completeness in just living and being.
But Ellie was undisciplined. She did not know the meaning of words like ‘come’ or ‘sit’ or ‘stay’. She was strong willed and determinedly set on her own way. This meant that granting her the freedom she craved and relished was a challenge. Our eighteen acres of wooded land was not enough to contain her. She chased the neighbor’s bull and the other farm animals, endangering her safety and ignoring all warnings. A leash was an object of warfare, and she treated one as a direct challenge. Who knew that twenty pounds of dog could pull like that! Nose to the ground, she left whoever was walking her awash in her dust, and we spent the next several hours looking for her. Our anxiousness about her safety dueled with thorough aggravation at her disobedience.
While we tried numerous ways to corral her willfulness, they seemed totally unsuccessful. My husband’s solution was to tie a lightweight 30-foot rope on Ellie each time we took her out. This allowed us to provide some control and protection without taking away all the freedom she so enjoyed. Ellie had a 60-foot diameter circle of safe space wherever we walked. We wanted her to run without running away while we continued to work on obedience training.
Ellie had other plans. Her sole activity when on the ‘leash’ was to run at top speed until she ran out of rope and then spend the rest of the walk straining against it with all her strength. There was no sniffing or exploring or enjoyment; there was just war.
This is when I realized that Ellie was teaching me about my relationship with God. John 10:10 tells us “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” God wants His children to have abundant life and joy that sustains through and beyond circumstances. The principles that He gives in His Word lead us on the path to this abundant life. However, we often chafe at what we deem restrictions and push against God’s way, rather than relishing the security we find in Him. We run from His presence, when He alone knows our hearts and where we will find the greatest satisfaction. We strain at His will, even though there we find His constant provision for our souls. We miss out on God’s best and life’s best, because we are solely focused on our own way. Just like Ellie.
Why do we doubt God’s love in the trials of this life? We struggle because we focus on what we want and when we want it. Psalm 107:43 reads “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” The abundant life lives in Him. Joy lives in obedience to and relationship with Him! The wise person follows and obeys the principles in His word and aligns her heart with God’s heart. We can strain and struggle like Ellie, or we can know that God’s way is best.
Proverbs 10:8 – The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.
Proverbs 14:16 – A wise man fears, and departs from evil: but the fool rages, and is confident.
Proverbs 17:10 – A reproof enters more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.
I Corinthians 1:25 – Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
II Timothy 3:15 – And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
James 3:13 – Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation (lifestyle) his works with meekness of wisdom.
Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.