Chester, at 14 months
Our family has been truly blessed to have had a puppy for the past year. Here are some lessons about my walk with God that I have learned during the past year of looking after a Norfolk Terrier.
David, when he penned the twenty-third Psalm, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want”, made the analogy “God:Man::Shepherd:Sheep”. I will follow his example and make the analogy “God:Man::Man:Dog”.
1. “Spiritually speaking, …”
I could describe Chester using words such as adorable, cute, at-times-naughty, friendly, etc. But if I were to describe his true essence, his spirit, if you will (I’m not suggesting that dogs are spiritual beings here; please), it would be that he really really loves food.
Strip away all our pretensions and appearance of sophistications, and it’s the same with people, I think. Humans are spiritual beings. But at the same time, we suffer from physical hunger and thirst. Moreover, much of human behavior can be explained in terms of our primal desires and greed. This is a useful insight when dealing with people. It teaches me not to expect too much from people, especially if they are unregenerate non-Christians. At the core of our being, we are deeply selfish beings.
2. “Man does not live on bread alone…”
In Deuteronomy 8, God tells the Israelites the reason why He made them wander around in the desert for forty years (emphasis mine):
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
In addition to our need for food and water mentioned above, there is a need for love, acceptance and significance within each of us. The Bible teaches us that God created us this way so that we would seek Him; He is the only one who can fill that vacuum in our lives. In short, we are spiritual beings. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
But did you know that there is a similar principle for dogs?
I would say it like this: “Dog does not live on bread alone but on every walk he gets from his loving master.” Chester needs more than just food. As much as he loves his meals and treats, he will soon become miserable if you start missing a walk or two. On the other hand, he truly flourishes when given a walk two to three times every day: at 7am before breakfast, at Noon, and at 6pm before dinner. And I think I truly flourish spiritually when I spend 10-15 minutes morning and evening in quiet time, conversing with my heavenly Father.
“Please take me on a walk!”
3. The nature of sin
Sin doesn’t make any sense. Why would we rebel against a loving Creator? Not only that: why would we rebel against the One who spared not His Only Son to redeem us from our sin? And yet this is what we do; without the regenerating help of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for us to turn away from sin and to God. But here is the sad truth: even after being a Christian, we often find ourselves running away from God in sin.
Chester is a smart dog. He understands words like “sit”, “walk”, “cross the road”, and even “wait”. But every now and then, he reminds you that he is a dog; he will often lick other dog’s poo on the side of the road. It used to be worse; he would roll around in other dog’s disgusting diarrhea. Now, I refuse to believe that somehow, licking the defecated matter of other dogs is beneficial to the health of the dog. And this is the immediate result of his “sin”: I cannot hug him or even touch him, unless I first wash him and get rid of the offending material. What a wonderful picture of our walk with God!
“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” - Proverbs 26:11
4. The greatest reward
Wellness Pure Rewards (Buy them here.)
Chester absolutely loves treats. We use this brand of treats called “Pure Rewards”. When he was a puppy, he used to require a whole bag of treats just to coerce him to walk around the block; such were his distractedness and recalcitrance. And whenever he did a “number one” or “number two” during a walk, we would reward him profusely with a treat or five. But this couldn’t continue. I slowly weaned him off the treats, telling him, “Chester, your greatest reward is me.”
What a beautiful picture of our relationship with God! Here is what God said to Abram in Genesis 15:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
I am happy to report that now, Chester is happy to go on a walk around the block without a single treat.
5. The short-leash treatment.
Sometimes, when Chester is especially mis-behaved during a walk–he might try and chase after a truck, or refuse to stay away from other dog’s poo–I give him the “short-leash treatment”. This entails me shortening the leash such that he is forced to stay right by my side; it doesn’t hurt him at all as long as he stays by my side, but the minute he tries to get away, the leash pulls on his neck. I have found this to be an effective way to remind Chester “who is in charge”. And he finds that to be a source of security (I’m quite sure). As I contemplate on our “walk of life” with God, I feel that God, in his love for us, give us almost too much slack. David sings in Psalm 139:
“You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”
And last year, I asked God to give me the “short-leash treatment”. And God answered! Our home internet just stopped working for an entire month.