I got irritated with my dog Zack this morning. The morning was cool and breezy, and I was enjoying the quiet with my coffee outside on the patio. Zack, being the loyal companion that he is, was out there with me, sometimes prowling the yard, chasing the squirrels off our fence, sometimes sitting next to me, ears up, muscles preening, so proud and regal. The rest of the household was still asleep. It was such a tranquil setting, just me and my dog, and my random thoughts and half-prayers.
You have to enjoy those moments when they come because situations never remain the same, and Michael and the other dogs began their morning routine. Zack’s been guarding a tree, trying to scare a squirrel out of it, and I call him over to lavish a few more moments of affection on him before the day gets into full swing. But hearing the stirring inside the house, knowing that the other dogs were about to get their morning doggie biscuits, Zack ignores me, dives through the doggie door and runs to the kitchen to make sure he doesn’t miss out on anything. Normally so obedient, he didn’t listen to my command this time. He was too distracted by his primal competitiveness over food, too driven by instinctive urges to satisfy his appetites.
It’s not like he was starving or anything. I’d already given him two biscuits not even an hour earlier — one more than he normally gets. And didn’t he know by now (especially after I’d already been so indulgent with him), that I’d probably give him another snack anyway when we went back in? But the thought of the other two dogs getting something he wasn’t, and that natural drive to have more, overrode his normal willingness to obey and his desire to be with me.
So I am left alone with my coffee. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect such restraint from Zack. He is, afterall, a dog. A few minutes later, after he’d sufficiently satisfied his impulsive urge, he comes back out and climbs hesitantly into my lap. Not quite as confident, not as boldly, but still fairly sure of my receptivity. And I hold him, petting him reassuringly. I’m not annoyed any more; I understand. I still love him as much as before he ran off.
Of course, this is exactly how we behave with God. Sometimes we are so eager to spend time with him, so hungry for his presence. And we tell him so. But then some shiney object, some appetitite, some envy or sense of competition diverts our attention. And suddenly we’re off, running to pursue it, completely forgetting (at least for that moment) that he was sitting there with us, enjoying our company. And in our distraction, thoughtless of all the good things he’s already lavished on us. Had we stayed focused a bit longer, we might have realized there was no need to chase after that latest impulse: he is planning to give us all the good things we need shortly. Sometimes our attention span can be just as limited as a dog’s.
But God always welcomes us back, always desires for us to crawl back into his lap. And even though our tails may be between our legs, and we hang our heads a bit, realizing we’d abandoned him so abruptly, he speaks reassuring words to us without any rebuke. “I’m just glad you’re back.” And there’s bound to be a treat waiting for us shortly anyway.