My family embarked on a rather spontaneous journey of getting a puppy about two months ago. It was a conversation we had been having for years, always going in circles, and never agreeing on what to do, what to get, or when the right time would be. Our first dog, Jackson, was a very lovable rescue who was part newfoundland, part border collie, part black lab. He was huge, but as gentle as could be. Our second dog is Toby, formerly called Captain Pickles (a story for another time), and he is a rambunctious but very sweet rescued golden retriever. We love Toby. He is as good of a dog as anyone could ever want, so naturally, we wanted another Toby.
A classically cute, can’t stop the baby talk when you look at her, 8 week old golden retriever puppy. All the heart eyes. Love at first sight. You know the drill. The first few weeks are bliss. She sleeps through the night and sleeps most of the day. She doesn’t nibble on much and runs all of 10 feet before she gets tired. So easy and we are all so in love with her.
Then she gets a little older, a little bigger, and a little more curious. She starts to find her bark and let us know how she feels about things. She might run across the room with one of my brother’s socks or nip at your hand when she wants to play. Things are getting more complicated. Now here is the thing, both Jackson and Toby were at least 9 months old when we got them and had mostly grown out of their bad puppy habits. Training was relatively easy and we did not have to watch them 24/7, but with Beckley, it is a whole new ball game. She requires lots of attention and lots of training. Instilling patterns of obedience in her takes lots of consistency (and treats).
It is so easy to become frustrated with her rebellious spirit at times or how long it takes for her to learn something new. I know I have Beckley’s best interest at heart. I know that the rules we have in place are to protect her and to raise her up to be a well behaved dog. As cliche as it may seem, I think God feels the same way about my obedience (or lack thereof) that I feel with Beckley. He has given us His Word, not to hinder us, but so that we may thrive in the best life He has for us. Disobedience for me right now might not look like stealing cookies out of a cookie jar or hitting my sister, but it is more like me choosing to not align myself with God’s will for my life. It’s choosing what feels best in the moment rather than what will build my character for the future. It’s pulling a Jonah, running away from Nineveh, and ending up in the belly of a whale.
In James 1, James reminds the early church of the importance of not just being hearers of the Word, but doers as well.
James 1:22-25 NLT But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
It is one thing to know what God’s word says and an entirely different thing to live it out. Being in relationship with Jesus requires obedience as I model my life after his (1 John 2:6) . Simply put, if I love Jesus, then I will keep his commands (John 14:15). If I trust the Lord’s provision and goodness in my life and obey Him, he will show me the path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Yes, it is going to be a lot harder than teaching Beckley how to sit down and stay and no, there probably won’t be a treat waiting for us when we respond in obedience, but the reward in heaven will be oh so sweet.