When our son, Chase, left for Southeast Asia, he left his dog, Mugen, in our charge.  Mugen is a police dog with other things mixed in and is large and strong.  We have always walked dogs in Georgetown on a leash as is required, but Mugen is not used to such things.  Chase would take Mugen on excursions into the country to places where no leash was required.  The result of that is that I really don’t walk Mugen; Mugen walks me.  If Mugen wants to stop and sniff something, I have to pull hard to get him to move on.  If Mugen wants to rush ahead, I have to dig in to keep from being dragged down the trail.  When we meet strangers on the trail.  I have to hold Mugen with a tight leash and step off the trail to keep him from knocking them down in playful fun.  In short it is a physical workout that involves every muscle in my body to take Mugen on a walk.

What is life like for a dog on a leash?  Something tells me that a dog has a natural instinct to run free.  From the signs I see posted in my own neighborhood, many dogs go for a walk by themselves and don’t come home.  They either forget the way or find someplace more interesting, or are found by a new master who doesn’t really care to return them.  Their insistence on having their freedom sometimes must result in a new slavery.  Has it ever occurred to you that those who would take a dog bearing clear indication of their owner through visible tags on their collar, might not be desirable masters.  Those who would callously steal might have other serious character flaws that would be challenging for a dog to endure.  It has always been my thought that a dog would have a happier life if it would simply accept the fence and the leash and see these things as a master’s attempt to protect and care for them rather than as restrictions.  I am certain that Mugen must have a sore throat and neck after a walk of a couple of miles in which he has ferociously pulled and forced his way this way and that.

Several days ago, I carried a burden with me on our walk.  It was not a physical burden, but rather one of those burdens of prayer that we often carry to special places, to outdoor altars in quiet places where we can lay them at the feet of Jesus.  All the way to our special altar by the river.  Mugen did his usual act of pulling hard to lunge forward or pull to one side or the other.  From time to time he would plant his feet and bury his nose in some smell of a previous dog who had passed that way and refuse to proceed until every vestige of investigating sniffing was done.  By the time we reached the bench which sits in this quiet altar by the river, I needed a rest as well as a conversation with the Lord.  The most amazing thing happened.  Mugen sat quietly beside me and did not pull at the leash even one time as I prayed for a long time.  It was as if Mugen knew we were in a holy place and the only appropriate response was to wait quietly and reverently for the journey home.  I went through the exercise of moving beyond anxiety and truly giving my burden to the Lord.  I explored other areas in prayer that the Spirit brought to my mind.  Then the Lord spoke to me.  He speaks by placing thoughts in our minds that are so clear and profound that we know they did not come from within us, but from a voice beyond us.  He told me that once I or anyone else committed our lives to him as Lord and Savior, he puts us on a leash.  It may be a long leash at times which allows us to wander far off his intended trail for us, but there will always be a loving tug when we stray.  We belong to him and he is deeply invested in our care.  He loves us and enjoys us as his prized possession.  He wants us to understand his purpose in guiding us so that we will see the leash as a pathway to real freedom rather that a restriction on our freedom.  He will not let go of the leash because his love is too great for us.

Among other things, I prayed in response.  “Oh God, please let me be more like Mugen sitting quietly at your side taking in your holy presence, and less like Mugen pulling ferociously at the leash.  Let me recognize for myself that which it is so hard for Mugen to learn.  Let me see that you want a very blessed journey for me and that journey will come when I respond to your step and voice by moving gracefully with you through life.  Thank you for showing me what is true of not only myself, but all who know you.  Let me never forget that I am living on your leash and the experience can be as unpleasant or pleasant as I allow it to be.”

Finally, Mugen and I rose from the altar by the river and started home.  Strangely, as if somehow he had listened to another voice, Mugen was a model dog on a leash all the way home.  My burden was safely in the hands of my Lord.  Now my task was to remember faithfully the lesson of that day at the altar in the woods; by the side of the river; near the flowing spring that always reminds me of the river of living water Jesus promised to those who believe in him.

Dan Wooldridge

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