Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE my pups. The word love doesn’t even really do justice. It’s the type of love where I’ll sleep in a horribly uncomfortable position on one-quarter of a big bed instead of moving my tiny dogs if they’re already comfortable. It’s the type of love where I’ll leave an event early to speed home and comfort them if it starts storming, because I know how scared and stressed they get when it thunders. It’s the type of love where I know the quirks and oddities of their personalities and find myself laughing out loud, alone, when they do something funny or entertaining.
It’s the type of love that any dog-lover undoubtedly understands…and anyone else undoubtedly finds crazy.
Before you can understand the big-picture message of this post, you have to understand a few details about my dogs. Penny is my little sausage. She’s a seven-year-old red dachshund who is the definition of a ‘stage-five clinger’. I adopted her when she was four and as soon as she found stability, a regularly filled food bowl and the world’s best belly rub, she was hooked. She’s overly protective, barks way too much and is severely un-athletic…but I love her. And she loves unconditionally. She is always by my side, always comes when called and wants nothing more than for me to know how much she loves me.
Jacey is a different story. She is my two-year-old Chiweenie (Chihuahua-Dachshund mix) who I rescued from an illegal puppy mill when she was eight months old. She had been forced to have puppies of her own when she was only 6 months old and was found in an abandoned trailer with 37 other dogs when the puppy mill was raided. After nursing her back to health and showing her consistent love, she made a wonderful transition from an overly aggressive, uncontrollable animal, to a sweet-natured, loyal, and curious pup. She is affectionate, spunky and independent. But as well-behaved and obedient as she is now, at times she still has an overwhelmingly rebellious streak.
(For any of my quick-witted readers, I applaud you for picking up on the humor in their names. Jacey…Penny…Jacey and Penny…think affordable name-brand clothing…think about iiittt…there you go! Yes, I cleverly named them after a mid-budget department store. I bet you won’t forget their names now.)
This rebellious streak gets the best of Jacey when we go outside. I’ve never been big on leashing my dogs because they are typically disciplined enough to stay by my side wherever we go. But after being spoiled by Penny’s next-level attachment issues for years, I had a hard time adjusting to Jacey. If I took my eyes off of her for a split second she would take off like a lightening bolt. Any chance at freedom, she abused. Her curiosity would take over and she would be long gone before I could stop her. In her mind, it was a chance to explore and to see what was around every corner. She did not know any better. She did not know risks. She did not know danger.
However, every time she took off, my heart would sink. Because I already knew what was around every corner. I already knew the risks. I already knew the danger. I knew that a block behind my condo was a four-lane highway. I knew that the lake to the side of my complex was filled with snakes and that she wasn’t a great swimmer. I knew that the woods on the other side of the complex were filled with animals that would love to have her as a snack, and that if she got lost, there was no way I would be able to find her before nightfall. I knew that there was a problem with people abducting dogs and using them in dog fights and as bait. What Jacey did not know is that I did not want her to stay by my side so that I could be the dominant and controlling master–I wanted her to stay by my side because I knew she was safest with me. I wanted her to stay by my side because I loved her and I knew what was best for her.
After months of frustrating, nerve-racking and patient discipline, our “runaway” incidences finally began declining. It wasn’t until just the other day that we “relapsed” and that God used my 10 pound Chiweenie to teach me the most beautiful lesson on His love and my obedience.
You see, I was heading out to go fishing on our lake and had my arms full of supplies. I hollered for the girls to come on and they ran out behind me, following in my footsteps. After I sat everything down by the water I looked back and Jacey was nowhere to be seen. Immediately, I was SO mad. We had gone so long without an incident and now she was missing. I thought we had made such progress in her training, but one tempting sight or sound had captivated her attention, and she was gone. As I began searching around the property, calling her name and directing Penny on where to go look, I found myself growing angrier and angrier. 15 minutes into the search I was sweating bullets…45 minutes into the search I was scraped up, muddy and infuriated…and an hour and a half into the search I was terrified and crying. During that time, my mind and heart had cycled through so many emotions. I had gone from absolute annoyance to overwhelming anger to utter fear. Jacey had never been gone this long and my mind was spinning on where she could be or what may have happened to her. I couldn’t believe she had disobeyed me. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t returned. I loved her so much and had done nothing but loved and cared for her. What could have possibly been SO distracting that she would run from her safety and security?
All this while, fat Penny had been searching alongside me. She was exhausted, panting and filthy, but she wanted nothing more than to help me and to follow me. She knew I was hurting and she wanted nothing more than for her mommy to be pleased. I laid down in the grass to regroup and Penny laid down beside me and started licking a cut on my arm. It was in that moment that God painted the most beautiful image on my heart…
Who are you to grow angry? Who are you to grow weary in searching? Do you know now how it pains Me when you run? You are a Jacey. How I wish you loved like a Penny.
I sat there for a moment in frustration. I had all the right in the world to be mad at my dog. She had disobeyed me and run. She had seen something that tempted her and was more appealing than following me, and she had run. Did she not know that I knew what was best for her? Did she not know how much I loved her? I had all the right in the world to lose patience…
So it hurts you when she runs from you? Perhaps now you know how it pains Me when you run. Perhaps now you know how it hurts me when you disobey Me because something of this world is more tempting and appealing than following Me. Do you not know that I know what is best for you? Do you not know how much I love you? I have all the right to lose patience and to be mad at you…but I show you grace. I never grow weary in searching for you.
I sat there for a moment in humbled awe. I looked down at Penny and she looked up at me–my loyal and faithful Penny. You could drive a truck full of bacon past, and Penny would not leave my side. You could tempt her, distract her, test her, and with one quick whistle she would be at my feet. She is faithful and loyal and obedient because she loves me so much it’s overwhelming at times.
How I wish you loved like a Penny.
I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny. I want to be so obedient and faithful and true to my God because I love Him SO much that nothing else matters. I want to be protective of my faith and unfazed by this World. I want to bask in the joys of His love because I TRUST that He knows what is best for me. At the end of the day, He loves me unconditionally. He knows what is around every corner. He provides for me and protects me and cherishes me. He is delighted in me and I bring Him joy in my faithfulness and obedience. I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny.
I wiped a few tears and stood up. Yes, I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny, but just because Jacey does not grasp that faithfulness yet does not mean that I love her any less. I have always been a Jacey. Most of us are. But just because we get distracted and turn our backs to God and give into temptation does not mean that He loves us any less.
Another 30 minutes of searching passed before I finally heard a collar jingle. I whipped my head around to see Jacey untangling herself from some shrubs, exhausted and panting. She was a mess–muddy, dehydrated and scared. The entire time I had been searching for her I had been imagining all the ways I would punish her when I finally found her. But the moment I saw that little pink collar, I was overwhelmed with joy. She was so ashamed. She knew she had messed up and she slumped over to me with her head hung down to the ground. I scooped up that little puppy and hugged her so tight she squealed. I was so happy to have found my lost girl–I was overwhelmed with joy that she was unharmed and back in my care. I understood the joys of extending grace when it’s rooted in reckless love. I felt a touch of the joy our King feels when we return. Weary, tired, burdened…our heads hung in shame. He loves us all the same.
Do you love like a Penny or are you a Jacey? God is never going to leash us. When we live with Him, we live in freedom. But that freedom is not free of distraction and temptation. That freedom is not free of danger and risk. He wants us to stay close by Him because He knows what is best for us. He knows what is around every corner. He loves us and wants our company. But He will not leash you–He will not force you to remain by His side. That decision is yours.
Anyone who knows God knows that He LOVES us. The word love doesn’t even really do justice. It’s the type of love where forgiveness is infinite. It’s the type of love with no bounds or regulations or quotas. It’s the type of love that is indescribable and unbelievable. It is the type of love that loves a Jacey just as much as it loves a Penny, no matter how many times they run. It’s the type of love that loves a person for their failures just as much as for their successes. It is the type of love that love cannot contain.
It’s the type of love that any Christ-lover undoubtedly understands…and anyone else undoubtedly finds crazy.