Learning to Heel
Seven years ago, I adopted a spunky yellow lab puppy and named him Forte. Basic obedience training like sit, stay, come, and heel, required hard work from both of us. Forte still finds ‘come’ and ‘heel’ hard to obey. He thinks he’s the leader and walks ten steps ahead of me. He doesn’t stop what he’s doing to come when I call. The problem is, if Forte can’t heel and come, he can’t experience the joy and freedom of being off-leash. He isn’t safe. When he’s totally focused on chasing a squirrel, he might run into the street and get hit by a car.
I’m afraid I act the same way about following Jesus. I rush ahead and hope that Jesus can keep up with me. I suspect that—much like Forte’s ability to be off leash, our freedom in Christ comes from sticking close to his side, with Jesus doing the leading.
We don’t have any dog walking metaphors in the Bible, but there are plenty of sheep illustrations. Psalm 23 starts, “The Lord is my shepherd…” If we are his sheep, we need to pay attention to our shepherd, just like my dog needs to pay attention to me.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14 NIV) How can we know the unseen shepherd? In the same ways we get to know anybody: by spending time with them while observing how they act and what they say. We can ask other reliable people who know him, or read what they say about him. We have Jesus, the Bible, 2000 years of other people’s reports about him, and stubborn dogs to help us see ourselves and know our shepherd. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27 NIV)
Have a blessed day in whatever pasture our good shepherd leads you to.