We have a wealth of dogs at our house…a yammering, bickering, friendly, excitable, playful yard and house full of dogs!
Each dog has its own personality, and its own way of interacting with both dogs and humans, and all are excited at every opportunity to see me. As soon as I step out of the
door, or pull up in the car, they all come running, eager for attention, and eager to be recognized.
All, that is, except Coco, our nine-month-old puppy. Coco cringes down whenever she sees me coming, as though expecting to be disciplined for bad behavior. She walks coyly away, casting sidelong glances, when I call her. If I walk toward Coco, she runs and hides from me.
Coco doesn’t behave this way with everyone. Whenever Sherri or one of the boys calls
Coco, she comes running, eager for attention, just like the other dogs.
For a while, I thought that Coco just disliked me, for some reason. However, this is not the case. If I happen to catch Coco not watching and start petting her, she will relax and stretch out, obviously enjoying the attention. Sometimes, when I am petting another dog, Coco will slowly ease up and slip in between, so as to be petted.
Obviously, she does like me and does enjoy my attention. However, she behaves very timidly toward me, as though she is never quite sure what to expect from me.
I think Coco’s timidity toward me began a couple of months ago. One afternoon, as I was working in the garden, several of the dogs started playing, romping, and digging amongst the tomatoes, corn, and peppers. “No, Stay out of the garden!” I scolded as I chased them away.
A few minutes later Coco returned with another puppy, to continue their destructive play. Again, I scolded and chased them away, before returning to work. When Coco returned yet again (alone this time) I picked her up and carried her to the edge of the garden, thoroughly scolding her the whole time.
A few minutes later, pausing from weeding, I looked up to discover Coco was back in the garden, digging up a tomato plant. “No!” I scolded, “Stay out of the garden!” as
I carried her back to the edge of the garden, setting her down with a firm swat. Totally shocked, Coco ran yelping across the yard to hide under the truck!
Ever since that swat, Coco has acted very timid toward me.
My intent, in giving Coco a swat, was to teach her the meaning of the word “No!” and respect for the boundary of the garden.
Unfortunately, Coco learned the wrong lesson. The lesson that Coco retained is that there are some behaviors that I dislike, and although she doesn’t know what all of
those are, if caught doing something I don’t like, she may be disciplined.
So, she behaves accordingly. She acts guilty whenever she sees me coming, assuming she is likely doing something I disapprove of, and anticipating undesired discipline.
Coco is so concerned about possibly doing something wrong, and so nervous about being disciplined, that she doesn’t realize that I really like her, and want her to like me.
Isn’t that how we sometimes behave toward God?
The Bible tells of God’s rules, and we realize that we have often broken God’s laws. We read of God’s discipline and judgment, in the Old Testament, and we expect God to behave harshly toward us. Upon encountering undesirable events, we assume that God is disciplining us for our bad behavior.
Caught up in the business of life, we miss a few daily quiet times, skip church a few Sundays, and one day realize that it has been quite a while since we really talked with God. We miss the closeness of fellowship with God, but suspect He may not be too pleased with us by now, and aren’t too sure we are ready to deal with it. So we stay away a while longer…and the guilt and dread pile up deeper…
Like Coco, the timid puppy, after a while we can reach a point where we cringe every time we think of God, and run the other way and hide every time we sense His presence. The longer we avoid God, the more we perceive Him as a harsh task master
watching and waiting for us to make a mistake, so He can discipline us.
Yet the overwhelming fundamental message of the Bible is that God loves us deeply. In Romans 5:8, the Apostle Paul said that “God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” and in John 3:17, Jesus said, “For God
sent His son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”
God loves us and wants to have an intimate relationship with us. He is not looking for an excuse to discipline us. Rather, He is looking for opportunity to demonstrate His love toward us!
Yes, God does discipline His children. However, His discipline is not because He is
angry with us, but because He loves us too much to leave us blind and selfish. His discipline is an act of love to guide and teach us, not to vent His anger.
Rather than cringing and hiding like timid puppies, “let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
(please respond with comments):
In what areas of your life have you behaved toward God as a timid puppy, too scared of His disapproval to draw near to Him? Can you, now, trust His grace and enjoy His fellowship?