Pumpkin resting up from her guard-dog duties
Some of you have heard me mention my sweet dog, Pumpkin. She has been my companion for about 10 years now. Pumpkin is the non-judgmental presence when I get the Talenti salted-caramel gelato out of the freezer, grab a spoon and eat it straight from the container. She never says a word of reproach when I binge-watch old episodes of Friends or Grey’s Anatomy, wondering if there isn’t something of higher intellectual caliber to occupy my time and thoughts. Her favorite place to be is close to me, so when I am home, she tends to follow me from room to room and stare at me until I settle down somewhere. Some might say she is watching over me, but I also know she will never realize all the ways I am looking out for her. That is the covenant I have made with her!
Even though she has been gifted with all sorts of savvy instincts I will never understand, I am also certain she literally could not survive without me. She has become pretty reliable about patrolling the sidewalk in front of my house and I generally trust her not to get in the road or go any further than the houses to the east and west of mine. However, in her innately doggy way, she is easily distracted. So, I watch out for her.
Just yesterday, someone commented on how remarkable it was that I could let her be off leash on the sidewalk in front of my house. I do live on a busy street, but I have learned her habits. Still, I hover close. I know there is a “cat lady” behind me who has half a dozen or so that run wild and like to taunt Pumpkin. I am on a raccoon thoroughfare that runs from the derelict house behind me to the ravines a couple of blocks north and I am not sure how she would react if one of those critters came sauntering by. And I hear the owls calling back and forth from the canopy of the oaks overhead and I fear they may mistake her for dinner some night when she is out for her “potty-break”.
Pumpkin THINKS I grant her some independence, but I hover close. I could grab her up in an instant if danger was nearby. And let just one of those owls swoop in and I’ll show him who is boss! Occasionally I will use a harsh tone to warn Pumpkin of danger or to let her know she has strayed too far. She looks at me reproachfully as if I have betrayed her for a moment—she prefers the praise and “Pumpkin” voice I usually use with her—but even though she thinks she is in charge, I know I am. And I will do my very best to keep her safe.
I wonder how often God is hovering close, ready to swoop me up if I should wander too far? Sometimes when I have strayed a bit from our agreed upon territory, I feel God’s correcting voice in my soul and spirit. I much prefer the warmth of his approval. So, I strive to be obedient and meet the expectations God has in place for me. And I also try to listen carefully to the inner voice of the spirit’s leading because I know that no one loves me quite like God does. It is the covenant he has made with me, after all.
That is why God sent Jesus, to hover close and make God real to me! And that is what the Holy Spirit does every day. In John’s gospel, Jesus explains how he has to go to be with the Father so the Spirit can come down and watch after us. And even though I think I am awfully good at being independent and taking care of myself, the truth is I would be utterly lost without the Spirit’s guidance. And so, I am learning to listen, trying not to be so “hell-bent” on being the boss of me.
Here is what Jesus told the disciples, as recounted in the 14th chapter of John’s gospel:
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
That sounds like awfully good news to me!
Lord, help me to sacrifice my independence for the greater security of knowing you have a perfect plan for my life. Quicken my spirit to the presence of danger when I am headed in some harmful direction. Teach me to listen intently, to sense deeply the presence of Your Spirit. I long to please you and live in obedience to your plan and find for myself the glorious riches of living within your protection. In Christ I pray, AMEN.
Grace to You,