It’s mid September here in Minnesota. The air is cooling, the sun is setting earlier and there was a noticeable nip in the air when I emerged from my front door around noon. I was working from home that day and decided instead of going for a run I would just take a nice long walk with our toy poodle named Titus. Yes, he weighs nine pounds and his name is Titus. As soon as he saw me pick up my running shoes he knew exactly what it meant. He was getting out of the house to explore any and every smell he could. So as soon as our feet hit the driveway any slack that was in the leash immediately vanished. Now, he is only nine pounds so even though he was trying to pull me with all his might, he couldn’t go any farther than the length of the leash. He was limited.
We get about half way through the walk and he has peed on roughly five bushes. So in dog terms, we are doing pretty good. All of a sudden he jerked forward and the leash came off of his collar. I could tell that he felt the tension disappear because he stopped immediately. His little black head cocked and turned to the left. He gave me this look that said “I know you know what’s best, but there’s “stuff” out there I have to see. So he bolted. Through the neighbor’s yard, around to the back, then the front and then off to the next house to do the same. I finally caught up with him a few houses down. When I spotted him he was headed down a path that lead to the woods. Our eyes met and he stopped. I gave him “the look” and he just stared at me. Our eyes were locked on one another. He hunched down and as I got closer he rolled onto his back in typical dog submission pose. Titus then graciously let me place the leash back on his collar.
I know that it’s always best to stay near to Christ, no matter how tempting the sights, sounds and feelings are. The key difference between Titus and I and Christ and his children is that Christ does not restrain us. He let’s us walk next to him. There is no leash law for those that love Jesus. We have a choice, every second of every day to either walk closely or stomp our feet in rebellion and pride and stay five feet ahead of him like a teenager at the mall with his Mom. We can remain connected to him so we are safe or we can run wild into the woods believing that the excitement there will be worth the disconnection. Every believer in Christ experiences these moments, sometimes in the same hour!
But what we can be assured of is that Christ always slows down to wait for us when we leave. Whether it be a few feet or whether are hopelessly lost in the woods. He never leaves. Our true lives dependent on that relationship. Without it, we have no connection to our creator, thus no connection to life as it was intended to be lived. John tells us in his fifteenth chapter that Jesus said, ”I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We can be healthy both physically and mentally. We can have enough money, food and work. We can have deep personal relationships with a spouse, family and friends. We can have all of these without knowing Jesus. We are wired for them. But they will falter. They will fail. The glimpse of life they show will fade quickly. It won’t last. Unless we know we need to stay next to him on our walk, nothing we will do, no matter how good, pure and decent will last.
We all run away from time to time. That’s obvious. Even people who don’t know Jesus know they are not perfect. We all explore things we know we shouldn’t. We all have those moments of thinking “It will be different this time” or “I know it’s not right, but I want it anyway.” Those moments of consequence-dimentia arrive frequently. The difference is that when we finally wake, we know that we simply need to look up and stand next to him again. He asks no questions. He is our ever-forgiving, always-loving, never-changing bridge to our creator. And things aren’t going to get better. We will never stop cocking our heads to the left and running off. Why? Because we are dependant. We “need”. We cannot give ourselves anything of substance or value. While running off can hurt, I am grateful for the hurt, because those are the moments in life where we can smell Christ next to us. Where we can see the deep colors of his eyes and the firmness of his hand around ours as he slowly lifts us up to our feet. Today I am grateful for my never-ending failures, my consequence-dementia and my stumbling. They keep me next to him.