Some of my friends have asked how obedience training is going for Max and Ruby. I have to tell you, it has exceeded all our expectations. We went in with a pretty low bar; Jerry thought it was going to be a complete waste of money and I just hoped we could curtail barking and jumping. We are still working on jumping. They get so excited to see us! We could be gone for fifteen minutes and they act like we have been deployed to Afghanistan! And company?? Forget it. But barking is getting much better.
So currently we are continuing to perfect the “sit” command, and learning “stay” and “leave it.” Ruby learned “sit” right off the bat, but Max has stubbornly refused to sit on command. For several weeks I have had to gently press on his hindquarter to get him to sit, but finally he has learned it. What was so hard about that Max? And when they sit, they are to look at our eyes before they get a treat.
As I write these words I am remembering how long the Lord had to work with me to get me to sit in His presence. I was far too busy, I had an important to-do list, or I was too tired. But God wanted me to be still and spend some quiet time with Him. Even when I learned to physically sit still, my mind would still race. It took a good deal of discipline, but finally I got it. Sitting first thing in the morning is probably the most important thing I do all day. It is when I turn my eyes on Jesus. No one in the history of the world had a bigger agenda than Jesus, but He still found it necessary to get alone with God early in the morning (Mk. 1:35). How much more important it is for me.
We haven’t practiced “stay” nearly enough, and it is something I want them to learn. The event that prompted obedience training in the first place happened a few weeks ago when they suddenly darted out of the front yard and across a neighborhood through street. I was so afraid a car would hit them. I want them to learn “stay” for their own safety.
You can probably see where I am going with this. God wants me to stay in communion with Him and WAIT for direction. Oh how often I jump ahead of God with my own plans and ideas. Waiting is so hard! And again, it involves not just physically waiting but mentally waiting as well. In fact, training my mind to wait is probably the most important part. When we feel as if we must be taking some action, and that waiting is a waste of time, Isaiah 40:31 reminds us that in waiting we actually renew our strength:
There are many other verses that instruct us to wait:
“Leave it!” is the most recent command we have worked on. Our trainer, Merit, dumped a pile of objects onto the floor…items that would be novel to a dog and therefore interesting. She had items from her purse, small household items, thinks that jangled such as keys, and things that slid across the floor. We were to keep walking Max and Ruby with the clear command, “Leave it!” She told us to use a sharp tone with a sense of urgency. After just a couple of trips around the floor, the dogs got it. I have to say they caught on much quicker than I have. God is still commanding me to “leave it!”
Scripture is full of the things we are to leave behind after we receive Christ as Lord. We are to leave behind the things in the past; those past sins that would cause us to be covered in shame, a past lifestyle, and sometimes even good things as we move forward with the Lord. Jesus told His disciples to leave behind everything and follow Him.
I actually found a list of 78 things we are to leave. 78! (You can find the list here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/putoffon.cfm) We are to leave things such as bitterness, pride, jealousy, impatience, gossip, and the list goes on. But good news! The Bible tells us what we are to pick up instead: forgiveness, humility, patience, and edifying speech. When I tell Max and Ruby to leave it, I am looking out for their own good. They don’t always recognize the danger. Sometimes things look intriguing, but they are to walk straight ahead. These things that God tells me to leave are things that ultimately hurt me, and I can imagine He is speaking to me with an urgent tone. “Don’t even stop and look, Fran! This is not good for you!” He is not a punitive God; He wants what is best for us. The problem is, we don’t often discern harmful from good.
So as our dogs continue with obedience training, so do I. As I said before, for me, obedience is a lifetime pursuit. I press on.