After nearly four years of hoping, dreaming and praying my wife and I recently got our first dog, the sweetest little golden retriever puppy named Annie. It has been a little like a roller coaster ride at the Hagaman home lately as our world has been changed for the better.
Aside from being the sweetest, cutest little puppy I've ever met, Annie has also opened up my world to a thousand new realizations.
It's funny how these types of changes reverberate throughout the rest of your life. Well that has certainly been the case with Annie.
Most of the time she is sweet, cuddly, and all around the most wonderful little fluffy ball of joy imaginable. However there have been times when she hasn’t been near any of those things.
For example, our first couple of nights. She would whine and yelp most of the night. She wasn't used to the new surroundings and understandably felt fear at being left all alone in her new crate.
There have been a few accidents where she either didn't make it outside or didn't even try. You can't take your eye off her. You have to watch her and track her every movement, being ready to scoop her up and run outside at a moments notice. Talk about limiting your productivity and freedom throughout the day!
With things like this swirling around I find a number of things running through my mind almost daily.
Why can't she get it right?
Doesn't she know she is supposed to go outside?
Doesn't she understand that she is loved, cared for and safe?
It all boils down to the expectation that a 6 week old puppy would act, think, behave and live as a fully mature and well trained dog.
And that convicts me.
How often do I think, act, behave and live as a mature and well trained follower of Christ? How often must the Lord look at my life, emotions, attitudes and thoughts and conclude that I just don't get it.
Don't I know that He loves me, cares for me, and has me in the palm of His mighty hands? In light of this, what business do I have with fear and doubt?
Am I not aware of how God has called me to conduct myself?
How deeply must my inability to get it right be frustrating to Him?
Thankfully, God has a nature, character and love deeper, wider and greater than mine in every respect. Where I may be frustrated with the difficulties a little puppy brings into my life, He is not frustrated with the mess I create on a daily basis in my relationships, work and life. No, He loves and cares for me just as a loving father would. Because He is the ultimate loving father.
While He loves me enough to forgive my sin and meet me right where I am, He also loves me enough not to leave me there. He enables me to grow and take ground so that I come to resemble His Son more and more over the days, weeks and years.
He shows me remarkable grace. That my sin is not counted against me is the greatest news I've ever heard. I am so thankful that God is a gracious, loving father who has made provision for my sin and called me into His family.
Reflecting on these simple truths about God over the last few days has been so very convicting, not just in how I think about our little Annie, but in how I approach life in general. I desire to extend grace to people like crazy, to be generous and lavish in my praise and to love people enough to gently and lovingly call them to grow in Christlikeness.
I don't know about you but I have some serious ground to take and I am serious about taking it.
Here are four quick ways we can take ground this week:
1. Invest time in God's word. Get God's word into your heart and mind. Fill your thoughts with the words of scripture. I use the word invest strategically here, because this takes time. We aren't going to memorize the bible this week. However, we can increase our knowledge, understanding and memorization of God's word over time. As we consistently put in the time, we will see a return in not just our minds but in our lives as well.
2. Surround yourself with good people. Truthfully, I don't always like this one. Community is hard, messy and difficult, but it is 100% worth it. Even if you don't like the people they will have a tremendously positive impact on your life. They will be there to bounce ideas off of, but more importantly they will be there to help you take stock of your heart and your life for the purpose of growing in Christlikeness.
3. Pray specifically for the lord to help you mature in Christ, specifically related to those areas that are especially hard, difficult and trying right now. Rarely have I seen my prayers change someone else's heart, attitude or behavior, but I have definitely seen it transform mine. It is quite difficult to dislike and mistreat those you are consistently praying for.
4. Serve. Jump in the game and start giving of yourself. When you begin to serve and care for others you begin love them. Throughout life, you'll often find that emotions follow actions.