Recently, for reasons we thought were sound, we acquired a second dog. Our first dog is still alive, but she is getting older. Her age is primarily what informed two of our reasons for getting the second dog: 1. If she dies, having the second dog will help to lessen the blow for our children. 2. Since she is older, she could be used to “train” the second (and younger) dog. The third reason is that we live in the country, we have the space, and he would like it better here than in an apartment in the city. The final reason is that two dogs versus a potential predator seems to have better odds than one dog versus a potential predator. The acquisition of this second, younger dog has provided me new insight into the importance of discipleship.
You should probably know that we name our pets with Narnian names. I say this so that I can stop referring to them as the older dog or younger dog and instead by their names, and so that you know where the names came from. The cats are Bree and Hwin. Our older dog is Polly, and the younger, newer dog has been renamed Fledge. If you can name which books of the Narnia series those names came from you will win the joy of being right. If you want to opine about our Narnia-nerdness, you’ll need to take a number.
Fledge is a mix of border collie and Australian shepherd, both of which are presumed to be intelligent breeds, which had us a bit more convinced to bring him to our home. We figure that a smart dog will do smart things and in the end make us look smart for getting him. In our self assuredness and eagerness to delight our children with another of God’s creation to play with, we did not properly come to terms with one very important fact: Fledge is 8 months old. We are not getting an experienced 3-4 year old dog (like we did with Polly) but we are getting a puppy. But not a puppy in the “aww, isn’t he cute, look he fits in my hand” puppy stage. Nope. He is kinetic, curious, and not disciplined. I say sit, he runs. I say shake, he lies down. I call for Polly, Fledge comes. He does not realize that the cats are: 1. welcome in our garage, and 2. a vital weapon in our battle against mice. If the goal was to get Fledge to do the exact opposite of what I asked, then I am a complete success in the realm of dog ownership.
Here is what struck me (and how I plan to weave this back into a tale about discipleship – you should be able to catch the overtones as you plow through each sentence) – we have seriously messed up Fledge’s life. This is not a bad thing, but we have taken just about everything he was familiar with and replaced it with something completely different. We have brought him into a new family and given him lots of room to roam freely when before that was not possible. The food he eats and water he drinks have different flavors than what he is accustomed to. We have introduced him to other animals, both of his kind and others, and we have issued him a new name. His new world is befuddling to him. Added to that is the sound of new voices barking (ha, I’m punny) new orders at him. We have not trained him, so why would we/should we expect to conduct himself in a way that looks disciplined? He is doing only what his nature is telling him to do. He is doing exactly what an 8 month old puppy does. So, what is the missing ingredient? Training of course. You cannot discipline for what you do not train.
When someone repents and believes on Christ, they are given a new family, new freedom, new voices, new responsibilities, a new mind, and a new nature. Everything has changed. How do we expect them to persist in this newness without teaching and training them? Even experienced believers, how do we get them to continue to grow in their walk with God, to continue to grow in maturity apart from teaching them to do so? It would be callous to their souls to say “oh, they’ll figure it out.” It would be negligent to their souls to say “well, what he is doing is not that bad.” It would be unloving to demean them and provoke them by saying “why can’t you do ______________?” The tender thing to do would be walk with them and show them what it means to live as a child of the King. The attentive thing to do would be to humbly, cautiously, truthfully and graciously expose all sin in all its forms, not to bring shame but to show the power of forgiveness and the necessity of living a life of holiness. The loving thing to do would be to invest in them, teach them well, and take them back to the cross to show them precisely why they “can’t do__________” to reaffirm their need for a Savior and an Advocate. Praise God He has not left us to figure things out on our own, but He has given us His Word and His church. May we as the church be diligent to teach and disciple well.
So, many thanks to Fledge for the two weeks of re-learning and reminding I needed. Now to go check if he has once again used our garage as his personal port-a-potty.