One evening, my husband and I were watching t.v. with our dogs. (Yes -Maslow actually watches television. Often with her head blocking the view for everyone else in the room.) We were talking during commercials, but I stopped mid-sentence with a slack jaw, when a commercial came on for a doggie camera -complete with treat dispenser. (I’m not sure who was more interested–me, or Maslow!)

“This is amazing. We need one of these!” I told my skeptical husband. We watched as a couple said goodbye to their dog, headed off to dinner, and then shared a dessert, checking in on their pup from their phone.  “Hey buddy!” The husband in the commercial cooed as their pooch pranced into the room.  As the man’s finger clicked the “treat” button on his screen, a small treat was projected from the spy-cube to the dog, who promptly caught it, and then returned to his little luxe doggie bed to patiently wait for their return.

The next day, I browsed Amazon — overwhelmed by the number of surveillance-and-treat systems available for the dog-obsessed. So many options, in fact, that I couldn’t decide on one, and abandoned my cart.  As I pondered the purchase in the following week, I started to see two flaws with this system.

Houston, we have a problem.

Problem number one:

Tootsie, our chocolate lab, is what dog trainers politely refer to as “highly food motivated.”

In other words, she eats anything in sight (including a firestarter log, but that’s another story!) faster than she’s able to decipher whether the object is, indeed, edible. (It turns out, everything is.) Having a treat-tossing machine in our living room would likely last 3.2 seconds after the dispensing of the first treat, after which she would destroy the plastic cube and eat its remaining contents.

Problem number two:

Maslow, our Golden Doodle, is what dog trainers politely refer to as “slightly neurotic.”

In other words, she is obsessed with me and suffers from separation anxiety when I’m out of her view for longer than she can blink. She is also a sweet little soul, and so when she needs correction (usually from shredding a magazine out of anxiety when I leave her at home) she is extremely sensitive and quick to do what I ask of her.  She’s more likely to fly than walk when I order, “On your bed!”.

She’s also so obsessed with me and videos that when I’m traveling and FaceTime my family, she leaps into the room and onto their laps to stick her big button nose against the screen, to take in my every syllable and move.

They say that over time, dogs and pets become more like each other.  Oh, Mylanta, I hope not! Seriously though, I started thinking about how these three traits and behaviors are seen frequently in dogs…and also, in humans.  Specifically, in humans as it comes to God and how we relate to Him, and the things from Him.

Lesson #1 The blessing is in our relationship with God…not in the treats he gives us.

Let’s begin with Tootsie who spends most of her life looking at the ground, ready to pounce (with an open mouth) on any scrap of treat that falls.  She often can’t be bothered with pets and cuddles, because she’s only interested in treats of the edible sort.

We’ve all met people who are more of “fair-weathered friends” than “man’s best friend.”  They pray when they need something, and are thankful when good things are happening in their life, but outside of those two circumstances, they pay little to no attention to their relationship with God. Sadly, they miss out on much by thinking the “abundant life” means a life where everything is good, and where all their needs are met. In reality, when Scripture talks about the abundant life, it refers to a life where we are fully dependent on God, in relationship with Him, inviting the Trinity into every area of our lives…not just the good…and not just the painful.

When I move about throughout our house, Maslow pops up and trots along.  Because of this, she often gets extra belly rubs and sometimes just gets company and the feeling that she’s not alone.  Tootsie (who really doesn’t care about any of those things) only gets up if she hears the clinks of silverware on plates, or the sound of the refrigerator cracking open. Oh, Tootsie.  How much you miss. 🙂

Lesson #2 You’re loved by God and under the safety of His watchful eye

As I imagine what I’d see if I were to spy on our pups when away from home, there’s one situation I know I’d encounter in quick order. Maslow pulling a magazine or book from a table, and carrying it back to her bed to destroy. As I contemplated my purchase, I imagined catching her in the act, and her reaction as she heard her name booming from the little spy-box that was still waiting in my Amazon shopping cart. With her uber-sensitive desire to please me, and her fear of disappointing, one verbal correction would likely have her curled in a corner with her tail between her legs. Would getting this Fido vision make her even more anxious?

Here again, we see a mirroring of what is often found in man’s relationship with God. The twisted idea that God is always watching, waiting for us to do something wrong…just one false move…so He can bring down the hammer.  Another variation of this tendency is seen when people become so fixated on God “showing up unexpectedly” that they refuse to do anything without hearing from Him first. They’re afraid that if they do anything wrong, they’ll disappoint.  So instead they do nothing…waiting for clear direction on every move.

We can be active-even in the waiting

Please don’t misunderstand.  It’s important to seek God first. To invite Him in.  To follow Him. But He also created us with a brain, instincts, and common sense that allow us to make decisions that are honoring and wise while we’re waiting to hear from Him. This leads me to my last point, which is closely related.

Lesson #3 Be who you were created to be

When I think of Maslow’s obsession with me and her desire to be near me, I feel both honored and humbled. I’ve taken her to classes as a puppy, and the vet for annual check ups. And yes, I even make her home-made biscuits on occasion. But I’m not so sure any of that warrants the love she gives me, the hard wags of her tail when she sees my car pull into the driveway, or the happy dance she does when I walk in the door. In all honestly, I hope Jesus knows I’m every bit as smitten with Him.

But this is where things often break down.  I love that Maslow loves me.  I love that she wants to please me. And as selfish as it is, I love that when I speak a command I’ve taught her, she proudly snaps to it, to show me that she’s obedient and at my beck and call. And yet…

We were created in God’s image…

I decided to click “delete” on Amazon that day. After imagining the impact this treat-wielding, dog-spying, video-cooing Fido cube would have on our pups, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Because when it all comes down to it, I want our dogs to be dogs.

I want them do all the dog things that God created them to do. I want them run to the window when they hear someone walking by, bark at the squirrels, take long naps, and yes…even shred my magazines and get into trouble while we’re gone. Because this is what dogs do.

The Bible has a lot to say about why we were created. It says we were made in God’s image.  Yes- to glorify Him, but also to be in relationship with Him and to love others. And lest we get too confused by the intersection of loving God and loving others, we have to go back to the head, heart and common sense that we were born with. Would God have created you with a passion, purpose, dreams, and ideas, if He wanted you to sit still –waiting for Him to command every single move you make throughout your day without using the gifts He gave you? Certainly, He wants to be at the center of your life. We’re not called to compartmentalize who we are–being Christian in some areas and aspects, but not in others. Nope. He wants us to love Him with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

Forgive me if I return to my analogy one last time, to make a point. I want Maslow to come readily when I call her.  Sometimes because I’m thrilled to be with her. Sometimes because she’s in danger and I need to bring her to safety.  Regardless of the reason, I want her to be obedient. Thankfully, she is. And I also want her to be who she was created to be. Go play. Run. Sleep. Do what dogs do. That’s what brings me joy.

God our Father, loves watching you be you.
Living the life He created you to live.
All while honoring, cherishing, and yes-obeying Him.
You can do all three at the same time.
It’s the way you were created.

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