We have just recently added a new member to our family (apparently, we had been missing the pitter-patter of little feet). Those little feet came in the four-legged version, in a Beagle puppy we named Cody (although we jest that we should have called him “Loki” because of his mischievous nature!).
As with most puppies, Cody is a cute as can be – which is a really good thing because he chews way too much (and always things that seem to have a significant value), bites too much (he’s just playing, but, man, are those little teeth sharp!), whines/howls too much (when he thinks he is lonely), and has way too many “accidents” in the house (he has yet to learn the vital importance of “outdoors, pottie!”). But these are all just puppy traits and we are reasonably sure that he will outgrow them (at least we certainly hope so!).
But he has one trait that I find most alarming – and annoying. There are times (far too frequently) when he refuses to listen to his master’s voice. Whether it’s “come here,” or “no, you can’t eat that!” or “do NOT get on that table!” or “stay!” Cody seems quite persistent at doing what Cody wants to do – no matter what the master says.
This is a significant problem. Our intent in getting Cody to do what we are commanding him to do is really for his benefit. We are trying to keep from running out into the busy street, or trying to keep him from getting sick from eating something vile or dangerous, or we are trying to keep him safe inside when the potential for danger lurks beyond the door. Cody is very young. He doesn’t know the potential tragedy to be found in moving cars, or ingesting “yucky things,” or large Rottweilers in the yard. But we do! And in our love for him, we only want to protect him from things that can harm him.
When I really think about it, there are probably quite a few times, in my own life, when I have stubbornly done what I want, rather than listen to my own Master’s voice. Certainly, I know that God loves me and only wants what is best for me, but it is just a whole lot easier (more self-serving) to do what I want to do, in spite of The Master’s wishes. When it comes right down to it: Cody, in all his frustrating stubbornness, reminds me of… me.
God likes to draw our attention to the fact that He does have a better idea about what is best for us. In Jeremiah 7:23, the prophet records God’s words: “This command I gave (My people): ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’” (Jeremiah 7:23) Our God is intensely interested in our lives – and in what is most beneficial to us. He is not just trying to keep us from having fun, or trying to keep us from experiencing life. His desire is for what is best for us. He really is for us, not against us.
And what is more, God has committed Himself to watch over us and protect us in His unquenchable love for us. He has Personally taken us into His care, and He deeply desires to surround us with His attention and affection. He has promised to lead us in ways that provide what is best for our lives – even if we can’t see it… or even if we think we have a better idea.
Cody, just being Cody, gives me a glimpse into the deeper issues of my own life…
But one more thought emerges from my reflections about Cody. It’s the strangest thing, that I can be so frustrated and angry at Cody (when he does something “bad” or when he refuses to listen to me) and then, thirty minutes later, welcome him onto my lap to snuggle with me in my chair. Everything he did to raise my ire, seems to disappear when I look into those sad, sorrowful, puppy-dog eyes. I just can’t seem to escape my love for that little guy.
Sometimes we need to be reminded that true love chooses to forget what is in the past and accepts (without hesitation) the object of our love in the now. I love Cody, not because He has earned my love, but because I have chosen to love him – and because I have (already) welcomed him into my family. The fact that he really struggles to heed my voice, doesn’t change the fact that he belongs with me – and is loved, just for who he is.
This is how God loves us. He doesn’t love us because we have perfect performance or flawless behavior – He loves us because He chose to love us. And nothing can change that fact – even our own stubborn and self-serving disobedience. There is truly no limit to God’s unlimited love for us…
I’m always amazed at how God uses so many little things to teach us His truths, if we will take the time to just see them.
And sometimes He uses a puppy…