by Brian G. Bettes
As I walked with our new puppy, he was having a bit of a rough day. He was jumping, yelping, gyrating, and doing everything he could to get away from this thing that was not letting him go anywhere he wanted to go. It was a leash attached to his collar, which was a new experience for him. He had never been on leash before. The collar was something he was used to by the time we got him, but this leash deal—now that is something entirely different.
It tore at my heart to see him going through all of his antics. I could see that he was going through phases of confusion (why can’t I go where I want to go), frustration, and at times outright anger, throwing a temper tantrum when he wasn’t getting his way. He was biting at the leash and doing everything possible to get away from this thing that was keeping him from “living freely.”
As he tugged against the leash, I worked with him by calling him to me and praising him when he came. Then we would start our walk again with him next to me. This showed him that he can enjoy a walk while next to me. He is getting used to the idea that walking with his new owner, exploring within the limits of the leash, can be enjoyable, and not create the trauma that comes with tugging against the leash.
I know there are people who think that using a leash is cruel to a dog. Those folks are welcome to their opinion. The vast majority of dog owners understand that a leash is something that is both necessary, and a safety measure for their dog. I do not use a leash all the time with our dogs. In fact, on our property, even the new puppy gets to run around under supervision without a leash a lot. However, there are times when a dog needs to be controlled for the sake of other people, other animals, and even the protective safety of the dog itself.
I have always trained my dogs to know how to behave on a leash. If I am near a roadway or busy street, though my dogs have always learned how to heel and I trust them with that, I have also seen many occasions on a walk where a well-trained dog will get distracted and move “off point.” Just one time of a dog running out into the street chasing another dog, a cat, a rabbit, or even seeing my wife across the street and taking off to see her in its excitement, can be fatal. So, a leash is an instrument of protection for the dog as much as anything else.
All this got me to thinking about us. How do we respond to God’s leash, His Holy Spirit directing us to follow His law? Are we like the puppy, who is used to doing what it wants, when it wants, and is used to “getting its way”? Are we constantly tugging against the leash, testing limits, trying to do what we want, and sometimes throwing a temper tantrum when we don’t get our way? Or have we come to recognize that, walking with our Master, not tugging against Him, can be an enjoyable experience; and in fact, it is the only way to live?
The Bible says that those who are led by the Holy Spirit are the sons of God (Romans 8:14). Do we see God’s boundaries, which includes everything from right next to our Master to the “end of the leash,” as a safe and healthy zone for us to live in? Or are we always wanting to go astray and live outside of His boundaries?
This is something serious to think about because it shows something about our attitude if we are constantly tugging against the leash. It raises questions about whether or not we really repented and made the commitment to come out of and walk away from the world when we were baptized (1 John 2:15-16; Revelation 18:4).
God created and communicated His law through His Word for our good. He gave us this instruction to keep us safe and to purify us (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 1:7). He spoke to our forefathers and to us through His prophets, then through Jesus, and finally through the apostles to give us His Word (Hebrews 1:1-2). How do we respond to those words? Do we believe there is safety in them for us? Do we also believe that as the Holy Spirit leads us, we are being led to be more like Him (1 John 3:3)? Or are we like Adam and Eve who thought they could find a better way? Well, I know that is our tendency, but did we repent of that and commit our lives to striving for something different at baptism (Romans 6:1-2)?
Just like it tore at my heart to see my puppy struggle against the leash, I can imagine that it tears at God’s heart to see us pulling against His will to “get what we want.” How often do we have the attitude of, “God, your will be done, but let it be mine”? How often do we, instead of complete surrender to Him leading us, try to “work things out” our own way? I would venture to guess that if every one of us would sit down and take an inventory of our thoughts and actions, we would find that there are areas in our life where we are tugging mightily against the leash. I know I have to repent of that every day!
Many people see the old covenant law as oppressive and abusive. Yet when Jesus came, He did not abolish it. In fact, he expanded the law to include the spirit of the law, which are the mental processes and attitudes behind it. That made it even harder to follow. He actually “tightened the leash” if you will. Through the apostle Paul, he confirmed this approach by telling us to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). What is our response to these words? Christ said that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15; 15:10). Do we love God and want to obey Him with all of our heart and mind and being (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30)? Or are we like the puppy, constantly tugging against the leash?