“Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you.” James 4:8a (Amplified Version)
I believe that in everything God creates, He has built into His creations some factors or attributes that draw us to Him. Whether it is the beauty of nature, the sound of a baby laughing or the smell of orange blossoms growing on a tree…His creations point us back to Him.
Perhaps less majestic than a sunrise arising from alpine meadows of wildflowers, my two dogs have managed to draw me closer to God. Even with their matted hair and their slobbery kisses and mischievous ways, my two golden retrievers have taught me a few things and I believe God may have had a hand in it.
Four Lessons God Taught Me Through My Dogs:
1. Live in the present.
When my dogs greet me upon my arrival at my home, whether I have been gone ten minutes or ten hours, they always enthusiastically welcome me with their wagging tales and smiles (yes, my dogs smile!). I imagine this is what they are thinking: What day is it? NOW! What time is it? NOW! What happened yesterday? Who knows, what about NOW?!? What is going to happen tomorrow? I don’t know, but what are we doing NOW?!?
Here’s the lesson gleaned: Live in the present.
Enjoy today. Take a walk. Sit back and feel the breeze. Make new friends. Enjoy your treats. Don’t hold a grudge. Hang out with little kids. Show someone how much you love them. Quit fretting. Go take a nap.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27
2. If you need something, ask for it.
My younger golden retriever, Charlie, still “has a lot of puppy in him” and loves to play fetch. Every time he drops a slobbery toy in my lap I imagine him saying: Here’s my toy. Throw it, I want to play!
Here’s the lesson learned once I clean the slobber off of my pants: If you need something, ask for it. Stop operating in fear or insecurity. It is not the end of the world if the answer is “no” or “not yet.”
Communicate openly with others- especially God your Father. Don’t sit and stew about what you need. Don’t get mad at another person because they haven’t developed the ability to read your mind. Pray and ask!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
3. Keep my eyes on my Master.
My older golden retriever Luke is nicknamed, “Mr. Perfect’ because he is so well behaved. Part of his behavior is in his breeding and blood, but part of his behavior is from the time I spent training him with a clicker and treats. Through training, Luke has learned that when I say his name, he is to make eye contact with me. I imagine when I say his name, Luke is thinking: She said my name and I’m going to look right at her and pay attention, because if I keep my eyes on her she is happy and I get more treats!
The lesson? Keep my eyes on my Master.
Part of our obedience is in our breeding and blood, too. We are co-heirs with Christ. Another part of our obedience is in our choices. Keep your focus on your Lord and Master, Jesus. Be still and listen for God. Be faithful. Trust God. Don’t let your attention drift off. Quit navel-gazing and staying focused on yourself, your circumstances, your problems, your agenda. Instead, keep looking up and out: looking up to God and out to others.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
4. Practice Gratitude.
As I have already described, my two dogs (and my cat Henry in case he is reading this) all come to the door to enthusiastically greet me when I walk into my home, no matter how short of a period of time I have been gone. They are all completely stoked every morning and night when I feed them. They are so excited when I pull out their dishes and then they eat like I am feeding them filet mignon (as opposed to dry kibble.) You should see them when I pull up to our local dog park when they race from gate into the park to run around with their “friends.” To say they have a zest for life is an understatement.
This is what they communicate to me: I am so glad to see you! I love you! I thought you would never get home! I love to eat! I love my chew toy! We get to practice “sit” and I get more treats?!? Yay!!! WE ARE GOING TO THE DOG PARK?!?!?!
My dogs are demonstrating this lesson: Practice Gratitude.
Spending time with loved ones is a time for celebration! You can never be too encouraging, too enthusiastic, or too loving. Everything is a gift. Don’t sweat the small stuff and be grateful for even the little things.
Wag more, Bark less.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34