From Psalm 32
We met Ridley at the animal shelter almost three months ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but he’d been dropped off only the day before. The day after we met, he found his new home—with us. But I have to be honest: while those first two hours were fun and exciting, the next forty-eight were not. Many adjustments had to be made—on our part, on Bella’s (our other dog), on his.
And we’re still adjusting. This week will wrap up six weeks of training we’ve done together—Ridley’s now able to sit and lay and stay and (my favorite) loose-leash walk. Friday night, as we were leaving the small warehouse where we train, one of the trainers commented, “He’s like a different dog.” And he’s right. Ridley is like a different dog.
Other times, he falls into the same old habits. Liv and I took him for a walk yesterday, and he did okay. He didn’t pull nearly like he used to, but he also didn’t let me lead as well as I’d seen him do in the past. Knowing what he’s capable of, the expectations are higher. So we went “back to kindergarten,” as they say at the dog-training facility. We worked on basic leash-walking skills and didn’t make it to the field where he likes to play. Maybe next time.
As I was getting frustrated with him yesterday because it felt like we took a step backward in our training, it hit me: How many times has God had to retrain me?
How many times have we had to go “back to kindergarten” when it comes to my faith? How many times have I made great strides and shown tremendous growth only to slip back into old habits? Only to start tugging the leash again, slipping ever-so-slightly into wannabe lead?
The Lord adopted me. The Lord has been working with me. The Lord’s presence and guidance has changed me for the better. Any growth—any reason for someone else to say, “She’s like a different person”—is not because of me. But I can’t keep making progress with Him—I can’t get to “the field” and enjoy myself or “graduate” to the next set of skills—until I surrender the tugging. Until I give Him control.
“The Lord says, ‘I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you. So don’t be like a horse or donkey, that doesn’t understand. They must be led with bits and reins, or they will not come near you’” (Psalm 32:8-9 NCV).
This verse reminds me to let Him lead, but it also shows me something about the way He sees me—I’m not a dog-on-a-leash to the Lord. In fact, He asks me, “Don’t be like an animal, Rachel. Don’t make me use force. Just stay close. Listen.” To me, it’s the difference of being walked by an owner versus being invited by a partner to dance.
I’ve done some ballroom dancing in the past. Here’s what I know about following someone’s lead: you have to keep your mind open. You have to try not to guess. You have to focus only on the small points of pressure on your shoulder and back—the better you follow, the more gently he can lead. You have to trust his vision as he moves you around the dance floor. And to get anywhere with any kind of beauty or grace, you have to let go.
Next Week’s Reading: Psalm 32–38.