I have a pug. Just saying it feels like a confession. You see pugs aren’t really impressive or practical dogs. They were literally bread to be lap dogs. So when we moved a few years ago from a small city lot, to a home with a few acres, it was an adjustment for our pug Marley. No longer did he have short visits in a small fenced yard, but he now had excursions into the great unknown (still the backyard). There were no fences, and although we live on a cul de sac, there is some occasional traffic. Herein lies the dilemma, Marley loves to chase cars; but he wasn’t made to do it.
If you’ve ever seen a pug run, I’ll bet it wasn’t for long. Their impossibly smooshed face, means they can’t move air very well, and they overheat in minutes. We purchased an invisible fence a while back, which works well, however, the more he tests the boundaries, the faster the battery wears out. In the absence of the warning beep, Marley knows the battery is dead, and it’s off to the races.
Tonight, he did it again. He may be out of shape, but he’s still faster than me, and I know better than to chase him. As I stood at the top of the driveway, I could hear him before I saw him. Snorting and gasping for air he came trotting back to me. Dutifully he followed at my heel and attacked his water bowl in the comfort of the air conditioning. As I shook my head at him, I was struck at how much I am like him sometimes.
Sometimes I want to chase cars. Sometimes I want to do something I see others doing that looks amazing, and disregard my design. I think I’m not alone here, I suspect most of us chase cars in some way. We’re in good company, many amazing people in scripture have indulged in chasing cars.
Peter, a disciple of Jesus, believed that Jesus was the son of God and the messiah. He was commended for this, and loved him dearly. Peter was designed to follow first and lead later. He was designed to be one of the very first people in all of history to come to a saving knowledge of the sacrifice Jesus was shortly to make. What he wasn’t made for, was taking violent action to install Jesus on the throne of Herod, but that’s essentially what he tried to do.
In the garden where Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and struck a guard, cutting off his ear. His action was full of passion, but defied design. Jesus healed the guard and corrected Peter, and carried His plan forward to bring Peter and everyone else to relationship with the Father.
So what happens when we chase cars?
Firstly, we explore our freedom. Remember Marley? He’d never been unfenced and unleashed before. His first forays into the yard were timid, but they grew bolder and bolder. When Christians realize their freedoms, they often don’t temper it with prudence. Boundaries aren’t meant to be restrictive, they are meant to be protective.
Second, we grow insensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Just as when Marley tested the boundaries, the battery died and he was left with no warnings, we can grow deaf to the whisper of no in favor of our own screams of yes.
Finally, we fail. Thankfully Marley’s never caught a car, and he knows to come home, but this is where we sometimes are not as wise (which is saying a lot since pugs aren’t exactly brainy). Often times when we fail, we blame God for not being faithful, or even that He abandoned us. Sometimes we just tuck our tail and ignore relationship with Him out of embarrassment. None of these are helpful.
How to stop chasing cars.
First, embrace boundaries. Learn what your gifts are and use them. Are you a good encourager? Then encourage everyone you can. Are you detail oriented? Then make a prayer list and pray for every person and item on it daily. The secret to spiritual fulfillment is pretty simple, use the gifts you have and look for opportunities to make them stronger. This verse has been coming up a lot, but it bears repeating and comes through well in the NKJV:
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV
We are to stir up the gifts given, not try to move in someone else’s.
Second, invest in prayer, and grow more sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Doing anything on our own exposes us to failure, but charging through “for the Lord” on your own, can be especially perilous. Good intentions are honorable, but obedience is always better.
Finally, when you do fail, don’t hesitate to “come home”. There’s no points for voluntarily putting yourself in the doghouse (no pun intended). God isn’t mad at you, locking the door and insisting you suffer, He’s standing at the driveway to welcome you back.