I tend to learn from the everyday, common things that are around me, and I’ve been spending lots of quality time with our miniature schnauzer puppy. Zoe will be four months old in a few days, and she’s been with us almost two of the four. She is a pretty smart little puppy and has learned a lot. I think she learned the word fetch before she even knew her name. It was just something she loved to do and we happened to have a word to go with it.
She has, of course, learned her name, the word “No”, and has just lately discovered the worlds of garage and basement. She likes to explore any new space and follows closely if she thinks she may be able to accompany someone to these exotic locales.
There are other words Zoe is learning to master. “Sit” makes sense to her, and she plops down her bottom pretty quickly.
“Down” will make her stretch forward from a sit until her belly is on the floor.
“Roll over” makes no sense to her at all; for some reason when she hears those words someone turns her over and she has no idea why.
“Shake” is a mystery, as well, but the light may be starting to dawn.
“Outside” seems to make everyone in the house excited, and people say it whenever she looks out the back door. So if people seem too comfortable, Zoe only needs to look expectantly out the door and someone is sure to leap (or move very slowly) into action.
There is a word that grabs her attention more quickly than any other, though. We need only say the magic word “Treat”, and we have her undivided attention. She suddenly has great interest in trying to do whatever we ask and stays quite focused until she’s convinced that we are done giving rewards.
It makes me think that maybe we believers behave in much the same way. One of the earliest things we need to learn is our name, who we are once we’ve given our lives to Christ. It sounds simple, but there is always more depth to our new identity that we need to let Christ make real in our actual experience.
We, like Zoe, need to learn to sit and be still, lower or humble ourselves, put the needs of others ahead of our own, and learn to love each other from the heart. We learn over time to deal with our sin more effectively by running to the Lord when we are tempted, instead of always having a mess that needs forgiveness.
But I wonder if we fall into the same pattern as Zoe. Do we obey God right away, or do we hesitate? Do we make Him repeat the same thing over and over to make sure He really means it? Do we pay attention all the time or do we wait for a treat? Are our obedience and attention brought to a whole different level when we have a need or want some sort of reward from the Lord? Does He have our undivided attention because we love Him, or only when we are looking for something we want?
God is not looking for our best efforts. He isn’t entering us in an obedience competition so He can show us off. He loves us and seats us in a relationship with Him that displays the riches of His grace in His kindness toward us. We need to learn more and more who He has made us to be and live this relationship with Him in a present and purposeful way. We must be attentive to His word both written and spoken to our hearts so that we can know and do His will as He shows it to us.
Zoe is still learning, and so are we. We can support and encourage one another to live this life as God’s loved children who grow day by day into His trusted friends. Let’s not weigh obedience to make sure our reward will be worth the cost. Let’s bring joy to His heart by doing His will because we love Him.