One hundred miles per hour. That’s how fast it felt like our new Labrador Retriever puppy could run, and that was with nobody chasing her. Add the element of a chase, and we were confident she could clock 105. She loved to go fast, play games and see all the world had to offer her. The only issue was that she had no idea how to interact with cars, bikes, or bigger, more aggressive dogs. So, whenever she managed to escape through a slight crack in the door or fencing, she ran away with wild abandon and without a care. And without our protection.
Realizing her desire to run freely, combined with the accidental (yet, frequent) and opportunistic cracks that she managed to wiggle through, we decided we needed another safety net for her protection. We invested in an invisible fence, which would give her a little shock when she hit the property lines of our yard. “With training,” they told us, “she will learn to stay within the boundaries, so as to avoid the buzz of her collar.” I guess they didn’t realize how badly she wanted to play outside of those boundaries.
We would watch her in the yard, studying her surroundings…waiting for the perfect time, when there might be a child, or a bunny, or a nearby golfer who surely wanted to play with her. We could see it in her eyes, when she saw the moment. The focus. The extraordinary determination. Ears perked, shoulders down, weight shifted forward and low…and teeth clenched. She knew what she was about to do. She knew it would hurt. And she believed it was going to be worth it.
I can’t count how many times in her youthful puppy stage, she darted through the fence with a loud “YELP!” She might have played for a few moments, but then would get yelled at by a mom protecting her baby in a stroller, run scared from the screeching tires of a car who braked hard to avoid her, or sadly realize the angry golfer swinging the club wasn’t playing with her. And, every time, she would quickly realize how good she had it at home – with people who loved her, fed her, cared for her and wanted to be with her – and she just wanted to be back inside the confines of her home.
As I sit here and reflect on our first dog and her silly escape antics, I can’t help but laugh at how much I’m like her…
How often do I literally grit my own teeth knowing I’m about to go outside of God’s best for me, knowing there will be pain and STILL…still I go there, thinking there’s some benefit?
When will I learn that life is found with Christ and in listening to His Spirit?
Can you relate?
I’m so thankful the Apostle Paul showed these same human tendencies. He is known for his deep, abiding, unrelenting faith even in the midst of the most grim and challenging circumstances (literally, with no comforts, he was jailed, tortured and completely isolated). He is one of my faith heroes for his incredible life transformation and all-encompassing commitment to share the Gospel. And yet, even with a life fully-and-completely-dedicated to Jesus, he wrote this:
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.I want to do what is right, but I can’t.I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.Romans 7:18-20 NLT
Paul understood the human condition. We are sinners. All of us. In our flesh, we will want to escape some of the loving direction God has given us, and even if we don’t have those strong desires, we’re just naturally going to stumble out of line anyway. We’re not perfect, and that’s ok. It’s no surprise to God.
It’s exactly why He sent Jesus.
Unlike our puppy, who would escape our yard only to get stuck on the outside of the invisible fence line, we’ve been provided the way back home. Over and over, no matter what we’ve done, we have a way to come back to God through faith in Christ. If we confess, He is always faithful to forgive, and He removes our scarlet letter through His own blood-red sacrifice on the cross (1 John 1:9, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 2:24). He gave us a way to wipe the dirt off our knees after we fall, and we can return to our Father all cleaned up and made new. Can I get a hallelujah?!
It’s almost unfathomable to me that God didn’t stop there. He didn’t just give us His only Son. He gave us His Spirit, too. As Paul continues to write in Romans chapter 8 (after admitting his sinful nature in chapter 7), he reminds us about life with the Holy Spirit, who is given to us when we accept Christ as our Savior. The Holy Spirit – an equal third of the Trinity – has incredible power (raised Christ from the dead!) How do we sometimes forget this?
The Holy Spirit:
- Sets us free from the power of sin (verse 2)
- Reminds us of what is pleasing to God (verse 5)
- Brings us life and peace (verse 6)
- Guarantees our eternal life with Christ (verse 11)
- Gives us power to refuse temptations (verse 13)
- Marks our adoption as children of God (verse 15)
- Joins with our spirit to affirm our identity and glory in God (verse 16)
What an incredible God we have – that He would send His Son as a sacrifice and His Spirit as a powerful force within us! What a LOVING God that He would do this, even when we fall short of His perfection every day. Even when we try to escape His Goodness, somehow thinking we might have a better way. Yes, even then.
He brings us back. He reminds us. Over and over. He explains, we can’t escape His love.
Father, God, You are perfection. And me? I’m so far from it. I’m just a human – someone prone to wander, sometimes selfish and daily making mistakes. I’m so grateful You know this, and You love me anyway. Your grace is more than I can fathom, and I pray, Lord, that the Holy Spirit would remind me of Your goodness daily – not so I keep sinning, but so I give You rightful glory and praise for who You are. Thank You for always wanting me close to You, and thank You for the protection it gives me. I ask You, please, to help me want Your ways more than my own, by the power of Your Spirit, Amen.