For most people, April 21 was just an average day, but for the Kuhlman household it marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for our family. Little did we know the thrill, joy, and learning the coming months would bring as we welcomed a new puppy into our home. On Sunday, April 21, 2013, “Little Eden Scout” was born and arrived into our anxiously awaiting arms on June 24. After much prayer and careful planning, the wait for our new puppy to come home seemed to last forever. Like all good things, the wait soon ended as this tiny bundle of pure Jack Russell energy descended like a whirlwind upon our family, bounding with full puppy-force.
Life has never been the same. From dog bites to muddy paws, from holes chewed in clothes to holes dug in the backyard, from daily walks to constant training, Jack Russell Terriers are like a taught spring just waiting to jump. I cannot tell you how many tissues he has grabbed from out of the trash and consumed (mainly used). This being said, I would not trade a moment of these past months for anything, because through each challenge has come growth.
I look back at pictures and video from Scout’s arrival and it is astounding how much growth has occurred in a single year! Truly, I think the growth has been more for us as dog owners, than for Scout. He has proven himself to be an incredibly loyal, playful, inquisitive, lovable and affectionate dog (most of the time) who aims to please. For those who have experience with pets know that much can be learned about life and faith from experiences shared with these gifts from God. Having a dog has taught me many life lessons that relate to my relationship with God.
Lesson No. 1: Clear Boundaries
First of all, it probably goes without saying that dogs are opportunistic creatures. Time and time again, if left unattended a dog will get into unwanted places or consume harmful things (at least ours would). Food, plastic, shoes, towels, or paper products left too close to the edge of a counter are gone within seconds. The old saying is true, a dog really can eat your homework or a sermon that you accidentally left on the coffee table the day before you were about to preach it. Not that I know about such things. All thanks and praise be to Jesus for computers that saves documents. Yes, Jesus saves. A lot. One of the first things learned in obedience school is the importance of boundaries. A dog needs to know what is appropriate and what is not, who is boss, when and where not to play, and other lessons as well.
Just as boundaries with pets are important, so are boundaries in life. I like to think of them as railroad tracks, without them a train will crash. So too in life, boundaries are not meant to limit but to enhance and establish healthy relationship: between God and us, and between us and others. Adam and Eve broke God’s intended boundaries when they chose to disobey the Lord’s clear command not to eat the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). The Bible itself is a kind of boundary marker that the Lord places before us to speak into us by His Holy Spirit, His life-giving will and mission for our life (Psalm 16:6-11).
Boundaries do not just happen, they take intentionality and discipline. All of which we are incapable of doing by our own reason, power, or strength. We need God. His Word cuts but it also comforts, at times we need both. Surround yourself with a few trusted prayer warriors who can come alongside you in your discipleship journey with Jesus, mutually pouring into each other God’s Word of limitless grace. Just as Jesus never sent out His disciples alone, why do we think we can survive life as a lone ranger? Whether through a small group, accountability partner, or mentor, we are built for relationship. Through the cross and empty tomb, Jesus sets His boundary marker around us (Romans 6:3-4). Through the waters of Baptism He places His Name on us—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—naming us as one of His dearly loved children (Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 2:11-12; Galatians 3:27). Through God’s Word He speaks into us His will and mission for our life, challenging the status quo and comforting the burdened. God has us where He wants us as the saying goes “for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” In the meantime, trust God’s proven faithfulness as repeatedly shown throughout the Bible from beginning to end (Hebrews 11-12:3).
Lesson No. 2: Grab Your Tail
One of the most important lessons I have learned from Scout is that when life is spinning, grab your tail. It is amusing to see Scout when he gets excited. There comes a point when he can longer contain himself and he runs around the house in what I have come to learn is an actual term called “FRAP” mode (Frenetic Random Activity Period). He becomes so excitable, so beyond himself, so overcome with emotion that he cannot help but let out his energy burst. Besides running through the house at top speed, hitting and bumping anything in his path, he also likes to chase his tale.
Ever felt like that? If we are honest, we all have moments it seems everything is spinning out of control: whether a bully at school, troubling news about our health, a painful wound we have never dealt with, financial stress, or tensions with a particular coworker. The list is endless.
There is good news! Life-changing news!
At the heart, such moments remind us that our lives are not our own. What leads to our spinning is seeking and desiring things as if they are ours for the taking—our plans, our ideas, our thoughts, our church—God is God, we are not. C.S. Lewis refers to this phenomenon as “the tyranny of mine” (from The Screwtape Letters). Here is that bit about good news. Listen to some words from 1 Peter I have always found to be a source of comfort: “When life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.” (1 Peter 4:12-13) When life begins to spin, grab your tail. Or rather, remember that He has His grip of grace on us. Have faith, He knows what we are experiencing because He, our good and faithful Master, is with us as an anchor in the midst of the storm! God is on the job, my friend, through Christ He’s got His anchor-grip on you.
Following my Master’s lead,