"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free." Ephesians 6:5-8 KJV
The other day on my way home, I drove past the family dog et m'épouse on their afternoon walk. They were deep in a nearby vacant lot checking out some of those smells that I can only imagine appear new each day to the hyper-acute nose of a dog. As I stopped to load up the empty trash can and the recycling containers, I heard a shout and turned around to see the dog, released from his choke collar and leash, running as fast as a greyhound down the street to greet me.
Now, you have to know that this is the same animal that last year was sentenced to wear the leash and collar for the crime of running away in the excitement of his first white Christmas, frustrating all attempts to get him to return by running deeper into the woods and the backyards whenever we got close to him. One year later, after running right to me, the same dog began zooming up and down the neighboring yards and driveways, racing right past me on every lap as we played his version of "tag." Always returning, never getting distracted from the game by some new sound or smell, and never stopping to leave his calling card in the neighbor's yard or stopping to examine their trash cans, this year the dog reveled in this display of his freedom as well as revealing his bond to his human guardians. As he returned and obediently sat to accept the choke collar and leash before being led back to the house, he was given a well deserved pat and a "good dog" compliment.
Contrast this with what happened a few days later. Driving along with said dog in the back seat, window down to prevent car-sickness and to let him enjoy the sights and smells of new territories, a squirrel made a mad dash towards the car. Suddenly, I heard something or sensed a shift in the ballast and looked back to see an empty back seat. Stopping the car, I found the dog, having forgotten the object of its earlier desire, chasing after me, not the squirrel.
Freedom becomes less attractive when you are lost, hurt, and bleeding.
All this made me think of our personal relationships to our Master. Most of us have probably thought about the question of free will as well as the issues of "law," our willful disobedience, God's wrath, His love for us, and how these all interact as we live and learn about this life in Christ that we have been given. He gives us both freedom and the collar. He watches us as we run, rues when we do not return, and rejoices when, out of love for Him, we willingly return to His open arms, without fear of the collar and leash if He judges that we need to wear them again; we know that they are given to us out of love for our safety.
As I sit beside a cozy fireplace with God's warm animal resting its head and bloody lip on my shoulder, I wonder why I can be so lucky to have a Lord and Master as well.
Forgive me Lord when I run off to upset my neighbor's garbage. Forgive me when I wander off chasing the smells and temptations of the world. Teach me to run with freedom within your sight, and teach me to return to you out of love for you.