Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of really encouraging feedback on my dog Lucy’s behavior. Which, I can’t begin to tell you how awesome that is, because she has come a long way in the past three years. Getting a rescue dog is a journey… and it’s not just about the dog. Having Lucy around has shown me so much about who God is as well.
Three years ago, when I graduated college, all I could think was, “I want a dog. I miss having a dog.” Naturally, my first inclination was “puppy” but my Craig’s list searches weren’t all that productive. I was also searching rescue sites. And so, in September of 2016, I went to go see a Beagle/Lab mix named Cissy that I’d seen on one of those sites at the Grass Valley Animal Control (literally, the pound).
My first impressions of Cissy (renamed Lucy) were awesome. She was friendly. partially trained, only a year old. Love at first site. It wasn’t till we’d had her home for a few weeks that we realized Lucy did not get along with other dogs. Period. Even walking her was a challenge because of how worked up she would get. And half the time, I was embarrassed and afraid to take her out in public.
Training her was like backtracking. Things she should have learned as a puppy, we were just now getting to. I started getting together with dog-owning friends to help me socialize her. But this cued an interesting trend. When I shared my struggles with Lucy, other dog owners had their own stories that they now felt comfortable sharing. There was a camaraderie there. And it really made me feel more comfortable. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for a rescue-dog owner. I was in good company.
And gosh… isn’t that just like life? I think most of us are afraid to admit we’re not perfect. We don’t have it all figured out. History and experiences that affect us. We mess up from time to time? It’s a humbling thing to say, “this is really hard for me,” when it looks so easy for someone else. But there are bonds that form when we share our difficulties with others. We get the help we need when we finally share our needs.
Granted, not everyone will be helpful – I’ve had to learn which voices to listen to. But community is such a big deal. Nothing changes without it.
Things really started to change when a trainer told me that you have to redirect the dog’s focus when they get fixated on something that’s bothering them. You have to get their attention back on you. That’s when they will listen and obey.
Lucy and I have a collar we use when we go on walks with other dogs. I have a remote that causes the collar to vibrate and beep when I press a button (glorified clicker training). It’s a reminder, “Look at me.” And it’s that look that communicates, “It’s all right. No one is going to hurt you. Calm down. I’m right here. You’re okay. Eyes on me. Trust me.” When she looks at me, anything else going on that might agitate her doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just me and her. And I’ve got things well in hand.
And dear friends… life isn’t a cake walk. Things happen. The storms come. Stressful circumstances arise. Often, my first reaction to these things is to be anxious. I worry, I make poor choices, I snap when things get tense. It’s easy to forget that Jesus has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. He hears me when I call. He listens and understands. He’s my defender, my protector, my counsel. He too is saying, “Look at me. Eyes on me.”
It’s like Peter in Matthew 14.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
It’s easy to get distracted by the wind and the waves when the storms of this life arise. We doubt. We forget God’s presence in our lives. His nearness. His trustworthiness.
I’ve said it before, but having just recently wrapped a week of VBS, it’s currently heavy on my mind. You’ve probably heard it said, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Well, all those cheesy VBS songs? I can’t forget them. So I’ll leave you with this:
I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus
When I start to fall, He helps me to stand.
I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus, And he’s keeping me in his hands.
When I have a problem and don’t know what to do
I keep my eyes on Jesus, He carries me through
I don’t need to worry and I won’t be afraid.
‘Cause Jesus will protect me and helps me everyday…
(I’m Keeping My Eyes On Jesus – Jamie Owens Collins, Gospel Light)
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2 ESV