Some time ago I viewed a video of a man who took his dog with him to talk to teens. The dog was off of the leash the entire time and was indeed a very well trained dog. His purpose was to get the kids to consider that the dog was granted this freedom because of his loyalty and obedience to his master and to compare this to our obedience to God. As I ponder his example I think of two dogs that I have owned and have had great affection for. These two dogs, however, were very different. One required a leash, the other granted freedom to be off of the leash. Both of these dogs are a great reminder of what I have been, and what I hope to be.
A Dog who Loved to Run
The first dog in question was an English Setter. Not the AKC type but a registered Bird Dog. Her name was Daisy and she loved to run. In fact, I have never seen a quicker dog. I’d saddle up my horse for a relaxing trail ride and no sooner was my foot in the stirrup, Daisy was off in a shot chasing birds across the field and quickly out of my site. Sadly, she was no trail dog and each outing became a very stressful event. Thinking that a solution would be to let her run off the leash in an enclosed area of about 5 square miles, including a lovely little lake, also ended in an equally stressful event. Daisy would quite literally run the pads off of her feet as she gleefully chased birds or nearly drown herself in the lake as the geese lured her into the deep and away from their nests in the reeds. She was narrowly rescued by my husband in a rowboat with one oar as she sank lower and lower in the water in her fatigue. Daisy, who was a very loving dog, just couldn’t resist what she was bred for and most definitely needed a leash.
The second dog I have in mind is the one that we now own. Her name is Ginger and she’s a beautiful Golden mix breed that we adopted from a shelter. Determined that we would learn from our past experience we attempted to teach this new dog some manners. Leash training did not go as well as I hoped it would. This dog is a dog that loves to run. My husband and boys would take her when they went out jogging so the end result was whenever the leash was on, she thought it was time to run. Ginger grew, and with much trial and error, she has matured into a very loving and loyal companion. Bringing her to visit relatives who have property in the country was our first test whether or not she could be trusted off the leash. Much to our delight Ginger trotted off but never too far, never really out of site. She loved her new freedom but continued to follow the rules. Now, while I’m sitting on my front patio at home she stays right by my side. She has no fence, nothing but a flower garden to stop her and yet anyone walking by, anyone with a dog, will not tempt her to break the rules set for her. She is completely trustworthy.
I Tested the Boundaries
In my younger days, I tested the boundaries, and eventually busted right through the fence; the rules that were set for my own good. I spent too many miserable years like a stray and lived by my own rules, the ones that I thought made me comfortable. How many of us do this? How often we think we know better or that The Church Christ set up for us is nothing but a bunch of man-made rules designed to keep us under its control? Before I converted I believed it to be this way. The Church seemed legalistic and in my mind, I couldn’t possibly see how there could be any freedom there.
Having lived my days pretty selfishly and finding no joy in the choices I’d made I set out to seek the truth. What is the truth, and can I know it? Reading almost everything given to me about Catholicism eventually led me to the Catechism. Surely this was full of legalism, wasn’t it? But the more I explored, the more I realized that here was the truth. Here was freedom. The Catechism says,
“The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.” (CCC 1733)
So, freedom comes not from turning in on myself and doing what I want, but in giving of myself for the good of others. I had been most perplexed by the churches teaching on contraception. Having read the teachings on this seemingly controversial topic I just couldn’t come to terms. Offering my frustration over to God and putting my questions on the back burner I let it go until I could find some peace about the topic, trusting Him to set me straight. It wasn’t long the day came when I realized there was nothing to come to terms with. My heart and soul were fully on board with the beauty and freedom of the churches teaching on birth control. It all made sense and I felt completely free. After entering the church in 2005 how delighted we were to welcome another child into our family. A child, born happy and, healthy and me, the ripe age of 47.
St. Paul says in Galatians 5: 13-15 (NAB),
“For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.”
Society is living off the leash and by their own rules, but there is no freedom, only bondage. It believes that to do whatever the body craves or desires is perfectly natural and freeing. They don’t realize the bondage they are in or how it saps the soul. Chasing after anything in an effort to be fulfilled, only to come up empty, full of consequences they refuse to own. The remedy is in the rules. Submitting ourselves to what appears to some as rigidity is what frees us. As a surgeon at times needs to restrain the patient, our Good Shepherd may need to restrain us. To open our deep, self-inflicted wounds in order to apply the healing salve. We have grown into the chains of our own making and the bonds are painful to remove and swaddling bands, rules if you will, need to be applied until we are healed to the core.
Both Dogs Can Be redeemed
Both dogs in my scenario can be redeemed. I know my weaknesses and so know when it’s better to be on the leash and to submit willingly. But, I pray to be the one who, once submitting, allowing myself to be trained by the Master, is set free from the leash. Free because I follow the rules that He set for me. Not because they are legalistic and He means to control me, but because He doesn’t want me hurt, doesn’t want me to drown while I’m chasing after things which can harm me. My prayer is to run free with the Master and for society to see the joy in that freedom. But first, we will need some leash training.