When my dog Roofuss
was a puppy, I took her to an 8-week obedience training class. In between each week’s class, I’d work with her on command drills. All the basics. Sit. Stay. Heel. Come. And each week something new could be added to the regimen.
At home, while she and I trained together, she did great. Spot on in her listening and comprehension skills. All in all, very obedient. But when we got to class, it was as if I’d done nothing at all with her since the previous week’s class. I would call a command and she would stand there, head cocked, crazy butterfly ears twitching, as if saying “You talking to me?” No amount of coaxing or treats would change her mind.
As the weeks wore on, I watched as she made slow progress. Roofuss did earn a certificate of completion, but just barely. I had read that Papillons are quick and smart…but on their own terms.
I can relate to that in my spiritual journey. In my 20s I wasn’t attending church anymore. I didn’t read the Bible much, if at all, nor think that it could teach me anything. All through my 20s and 30s other things were taking priority: college graduation, marriage, family, job changes, financial challenges, and then the dissolution of my first marriage. But I was handling it on my terms. I thought I was making progress. I was making a life.
It wasn’t until a few years ago when I’d enrolled to take Catholic adult education classes (RCIA)Catholic adult education classes (RCIA) that I began to see things differently. As I worked through my weekly lessons, learning about Church doctrine, liturgy and the Sacraments, I began to see that the idea of living life on my own terms was hindering my progress.
Then about two years ago, as I was going through another round of RCIA courses—this time just to sit in on classes to brush up on some of my learning—I came across an interpretation on Matthew 4:19 that was an “Ah-ha” moment in my learning about obedience.
In his dialogue with the fishermen Jesus says “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Notice what He says first: Follow Me. He doesn’t say go out into the world, make your own way, and try to pencil me in once in a while, boys. No! He asks us to put Him first in our lives…follow me, so that we can then make something of our lives. As things get added to our “to do” list; the faith to follow God is the focus that allows us true progress.
In thinking back to Roofuss’ early puppy training, I’ve remembered something the trainer told us when we started: Obedience training is not for the dog, it’s for the owner, to establish that you are the superior so that she can feel secure and safe in your command.
It’s kind of like that with learning obedience to God. In His Word we find direction and life lessons that He’s given for our security and safety, rather than bumbling about doing things on our own terms. I don’t think there is any “certification of completion”…but I am seeing progress.