Dog Walking. But Not Really.

I just saw a grown man trying to take a walk down my street. I say trying because what he was actually doing was being pulled down the street by two Siberian Huskies. He was leaning back on the bright yellow, canvas leads they were tied to and trying to dig in with his heels to slow the dogs down with every step, but it wasn’t working. If it hadn’t been for the man desperately trying to keep the dogs from running at top speed, I would have thought the dogs were undergoing training to pull a sled. They were joyfully running along at a good pace, noses to ground, enjoying their time on the 15-foot leads (I’m guesstimating at the length, but those leashes were long).

That’s not what was happening, though. Rather than the man walking the dogs, he was being pulled along by the dogs. The dogs weren’t completely out of control, but they weren’t in the man’s control, either. He was desperately hanging on, digging in, and only one stumble away from disaster.

Isn’t that a bit like life, sometimes?

Life can run ahead of us, dragging us behind. The fact is that we aren’t in control of our lives, no matter how much we wish we were. (Confessed control freak right here.) Things happen. “Circumstances” occur. Things and circumstances there is nothing in our power to prevent. When they are strong, sometimes those things—those “circumstances”—can seem to pull us along and keep us moving at a pace that is one misstep away from disaster. There is a very real possibility that a broken piece of pavement can send us sprawling flat on our faces and leave us scraped up, bruised, and bleeding.

Life can be like that.

But most often, life leaves us a small fragment of control in the form of choices. There aren’t many instances in life when we truly have no choice, no ability to act on our choices, no power at all. Our choices may be limited, yes, and there will always be consequences to the decisions and actions we take, but choices they are.

The man I watched “walking” the dogs had choices. He could have simply dropped their leads. He would have then had to deal with the consequences; the dogs would probably have kept going without him, and then what? He could go after them or simply give up. He could have made a different choice before the walk that I witnessed occurred—did he really have to take them for a walk? He had a choice—but it may have been a choice between letting out their energy through a “walk” and leaving them house-bound and (possibly) destructive. Could he have paid someone to walk them? Paid for a dog trainer to work with him and the dogs? Each choice would come with its own consequences. Perhaps he was the paid dog walker (who may soon choose another job). Perhaps he did pay for a trainer and still didn’t get that walking thing down. He had choices, made them, and acted on them. From my point of view, he was clearly struggling with the consequences of his choices.

Recently, I’ve felt a bit like the leads I’m holding onto in my life are walking me. Rather, making me run behind them. Those leads often have a lot more energy than I do, and sometimes it’s a struggle to hold onto them and keep upright. And the thing about walking dogs is that the more there are, the harder it may be to keep them from tripping up the dog walker and dragging him (or her) on the ground. My leads? I can’t even count them, honestly—there are my family life (or is that smaller ones of wife, mom, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, gardener, etc.?) and my job; there are those that are ministry-based (production team, theater group, small group) and there are personal pursuits (devotional life, friendships, health, etc.). There are days, weeks, months when all I can do is dream of letting one, two, three leashes just go.

A girl, a mom, and an Oscar in front of an Oscar Night banner.

When leads collide and overlap: I got to take a quick pic on the “red carpet” with my daughter, before my stint as a “co-producer” of a show for the theater group at my church, which really ended up being a glorified name for running graphics—one of the things I do occasionally for the production team at church.

Letting go, and facing the consequences.

Because there would be consequences.

Some I would never dream of letting go, but others? A girl can dream, can’t she?


Here’s the crux of the problem for me, at least. I may dream of letting a lead go, but after months of praying I honestly still don’t know which God wants me to drop. I know what I dream of dropping, but is that just me? Is that my selfish desire? That keeps me holding on, praying for God’s clear direction in my life. Sometimes—especially lately—it feels like I’m dragging further and further behind those dogs and getting closer and closer to tripping. I keep asking, but so far there hasn’t been a bright pillar of fire or large cloud in the sky.

I did get a star to follow, though. Turns out it’s been there for a while and I just haven’t been paying attention. I’ve been looking for something bigger, something brighter. It took a teary confession about what’s on my heart to a friend and her offer to pray with and over me to open my eyes to it, but finally God twisted my head around to see it. Or—in terms that will stop mixing my metaphors—God finally hit me over the head with a lead that was already dangling in my face and let me clearly see two others that he gave me and are already in my hands, one of which I’ve been neglecting. He didn’t turn one bright yellow yet and say, DROP THIS ONE, but I still have my hopes up.

Those three leads? Three things he has given into my hands, to be responsible for, beyond the “given” of family, for me? Those are the three I need to pay attention to now, to be faithful with. Along with letting me finally see them, God gave me a renewed sense of strength and purpose for them.

One of them is this blog. He prompted me to start that, to write and to share about him in January. So I did.

One of them is my book project. This is the one I have barely had a hold of since last fall, because of time. But God gave it to me, has blessed me through the process of researching it, has blessed others through that same process. I can’t let it drop; no matter how long it takes, I need to finish it because it’s part of the work God gave me to do.

The last one? It’s new. Not what I expected, since I thought for sure I would have to drop a lead before picking up a new one. But that’s one thing about God: He doesn’t think like we do (Isaiah 55:8-11), so things rarely turn out like we expect. The last one is to start a writer’s group at my church. Like I said, the idea’s been dangling in front of me for a while now and I’ve said, That would be cool, even mentioned it to some people who were very supportive, but then not actually grabbed hold.

Until today.

Today, I grabbed hold and started making plans. And even though these plans are in the initial stages right now and the first meeting may be (will probably be) months from now, I’m excited. Excited to see what God can do when I run alongside him following his leads.

I won’t lie—I’m still very, very curious about how God’s going to work all of this out. Because I can’t see how on earth I’ll be able to hold onto everything, and the logical part of my mind tells me that, eventually, God is going to clearly tell me which lead I can drop. Then again, it’s not really an earthly matter when one has a heavenly perspective. And it’s not my strength, but his (2 Corinthians 12:9). And—if I don’t stand in front of him—he’ll step in and accomplish his work through and in me when it would be otherwise impossible, humanly unexplainable.

So dropping something to hold onto those other leads he’s given me? Yes, that would be my plan. But God is full of surprises.

For those of you who stuck with me through this blog post, thanks. I know it’s long-winded (which, if you’re a regular reader, you’ll probably realize I tend to be) and in that sense breaks the blog genre rules. Writing it has been a revealing, clarifying, and therapeutic process for me, and that feels almost selfish. But I’m hoping and praying that at least one of you will see something God’s trying to show you through this post, too. Every week when I write I hope and pray that this is the outcome—that God uses this to glorify him, to touch hearts, to encourage others.

I’m also writing this end note because I’m coveting your prayers. For the moment, the question of which or whether to drop a lead doesn’t seem as urgent as it did this morning, or as it has over the last few months. But I know the worry will begin to creep in again when I feel especially out of control, and I do still want God to give me clarity about what to do. I also ask that you pray that I accept God’s will rather than try to force my own, that whatever leads he has me keep and let go of I will do what he asks willingly and run behind those leads—his lead—wholeheartedly for him.

You may also want to say a prayer for the man with the dogs. He’s been down the street a few times in the past couple of weeks and things don’t seem to get any better for him. ;)

It’s All Your Fault

“You started it!” I heard myself shouting last night.

Really? You started it? I sounded like a child, and immediately I knew it. I also knew I should apologize for my part in the argument that was taking place, knew that I should not go to bed before taking care of things (Ephesians 4:26), but I was stubborn. I was proud.

I wanted an apology. After all, he had started it.

Even after I simmered down and had gone to bed, I reasoned that he had also gone to bed and wouldn’t want me to wake him up to apologize. So I left it. But this morning, I begrudgingly took the first step and said, “I’m sorry about last night.”

I think he mumbled an “I’m sorry too.” I didn’t really hear him, it was such an under-his-breath mumble. And you know what? That still rankled. I still thought he was the one who owed me an apology, a real apology and not just something mumbled without sincerity in response to my own.

It was all his fault, after all.

As I type this out, I realize how childish all of it sounds. As I stand back from it a bit, I also realize how much bigger my part in it was than it seemed to me. It all started with a nip on his fingers from a dog much too eager to accept a piece of pizza crust he was offering her. She’s a big dog, so a nip can hurt. He reacted poorly and shoved her away with his foot. I reacted and told him not to kick the dog.

“What big teeth you have!” “The better to eat you with, my dear...” (A lovable Rottweiler happily showing her big teeth.)

“I didn’t kick her.”

“Yes you did. I saw you.”

“You saw wrong.”

“Very mature.”

I don’t know if his mood was already down or grumpy, since I hadn’t seen him most of the day and we had just arrived home and were watching a show together with the kids. But from that moment on, everything I said to or even toward him he responded to by growling (okay, not literally, but you probably know what I mean).

I have never been good around grumpy people. The grumpiness affects me, rubs off on me, and I tend to growl back. Looking back on last night, I get the vague sense that everything I said going forward could have been interpreted as a criticism. As nagging. I am, all too often, that nagging, quarrelsome wife that Solomon warns against in Proverbs. And yes, I can see why he would growl at me for being like that.

When I look at myself, really look at myself, I hate what I see, especially when it comes to my family life. Why am I the worst around the people I am supposed to love the most? Why do I act, and react, like this? Why can’t I be better? Why can’t I change?

Why should I hope and ask God to trust me with something more if I can’t even take care with the people in my home?

Yet, all too often, I try to place the blame on those around me rather than myself. I don’t like to admit that I’m flawed—at least, not to others. I know that I’m much more flawed than I like to admit, than I want anyone else to know. And one of the easiest ways to try to get around taking the blame for something is to blame someone else. Even Moses did this, seemingly right up until the day he died.

What? Moses did this? Moses, one of the most revered men in Jewish history, the man the Bible calls “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)? The man who spent so much time with God that his face literally glowed?

Yes. In at least one aspect of his life, Moses blamed others for his own actions—actions that led to a severe consequence. You see, when God had told Moses to speak to a rock in the presence of the Israelites and, in so doing, “bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink” (Numbers 20:8), Moses was so angry with the Israelites for complaining—yet again—that instead of just speaking to the rock he hit it. Twice. God still provided the water, but pointed out to Moses that his actions dishonored God: They betrayed a lack of trust, and worse yet, prevented another opportunity for God to display his holiness to the Israelites. A God who shows that he can command even the rocks of the earth to provide for his people is a God indeed; one who has to break the rock open physically? Not nearly as impressive. And so Moses—and his brother Aaron, who had stood by his side through the incident—were forbidden from entering the promised land with their people.

Wow. A fit of anger, and then this. What he had been working toward for decades, denied to Moses. And as close as Moses was to God, as much time as he spent with him, I don’t think he could bring himself to admit that, yes, this was his fault. At least, he never admitted it out loud. Instead, he blamed the Israelites.

In his closing “sermon” to the Israelites (basically, the book of Deuteronomy), shortly before he was to die (and knowing his death was coming), Moses told the assembled crowd,

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.” (Deuteronomy 1:37)

Did you catch that? Because of you.

You started it. It’s not my fault.

But it was. Moses may have been reacting to others’ actions, but he was the one that turned a situation from one in which God would be seen as holy, in which God would be glorified, into one that doubters could later explain away as being “natural,” an act of human initiative. If Moses had obeyed God, had just spoken to the rock, how much more would God’s power, God’s holiness, have been revealed? What else was Moses getting in the way of by not owning up to his own mistake, by still blaming it on the Israelites?

How often have I taken away God’s glory by not trusting, not obeying? By instead clinging to my stubborn, childish pride and telling others, telling myself, You started it! It’s not my fault?

If only, instead, we can trust God and do as he instructs. Get out of the way and see how miraculously his holiness shines through, simply because of our obedience. Allow people to see him and not us.

And when we do fall? When I fall and block others’ view of God’s holiness? What might happen if, instead of stubbornly blaming others, I own up to them? I, instead, accept the blame and learn from the consequences? Maybe, just maybe, God’s holiness will start to outshine me again. Will start to shine through me.

Outshine me, Lord, Change my heart and let my life reflect your glory. Let me glow.