When I was training my golden retriever, one command I impressed upon him above all others: the essential “come!” command. That no matter what the circumstances, no matter how enticing a particular plant, person, or fellow canine might appear to be, when I gave the command to come, he would immediately return to me. Now, dogs are not perfect, though they do seem to have the unconditional love part down, and this took a good bit of work and practice, but eventually, we could walk anywhere without a leash, and he could be counted on to obey me. I didn’t expect him to understand that this training was as much for his safety as anything else; the important thing is that he learned obedience. The second important command was “stay.” Sometimes walking beside me he would look up at me with earnest eyes, his whole body shivering with the urge to break free, but if I said, “stay,” he would not leave my side. Often this was while passing another dog and walker, the walker struggling at one end of a straining leash, a barking leaping dog on the other.
I was thinking about all this this morning, watching dogs in the park, missing my own, who passed away this year, how those two commands also came from Christ and shape the experience of being a Christian. The most important is “come,” from whatever station in life, whatever our age, race, gender, all that, Christ calls us to come to Him. And the next is to stay, to abide with Him.
A friend recently sent me a link about a parallel in our relationships with God and our dogs. It’s overly simplistic, of course, but in fact neither willfully leaves us; it is we who leave them. And they are always waiting, happy to see us, missing us when we are gone, not holding our absence against us, just glad that we return.