We have a dog named Buddy. He’s a huge, fully trained, 100-pound, fox-red Labrador that graduated from a $1200 training program. He was a gift to us from a fellow fireman friend of my husband’s, who never got to take Buddy hunting. We paid literally nothing for him, and didn’t pay for his training, either. My husband and I are avid duck hunters, so receiving him was a special, and very unexpected blessing from God. Now my husband doesn’t have to wade out into the cold water in the middle of winter to retrieve our kill! The dog adores the water, and adores retrieving,…making this a perfect relationship.
Our other dog, Aspen, is a beautiful Boykin Spaniel, covered in milk chocolate brown fur. She’s an unusual breed that hardly anyone has ever seen. We are asked all the time what kind of dog she is. “Boykins” were bred specifically for duck hunting up north, but (unfortunately) we never gave Aspen the specific training to develop it in her, because we weren’t duck hunting at the time we got her, and didn’t know we soon would be. She’s highly lovable, and smart, but won’t heel, or bring back the stick you throw. Her idea of “fetch” is for the person to fetch the stick from her as she runs away.
Buddy, on the other hand, fetches and heels perfectly. It’s amazing, honestly. When we go hunting, Buddy bounds out of the truck, THRILLED to be outdoors and knows exactly what the guns and his thermal vest are for. He’s going to retrieve birds and swim! Oh BOY! But, as beyond excited as he is, when we’re walking to our “spot,” Buddy walks directly beside Steve, incessantly looking up at him, ensuring that he hasn’t walked past him…and that Steve isn’t stopping for some reason. If Buddy walks just a couple steps past Steve, his head turns often enough to realize it quickly, and slows down his pace to meet Steve’s. When Steve stops walking, so does Buddy. Buddy sits…and waits…looking up at Steve to know when to walk again. (Good thing Buddy does that with Steve, because Lord knows I don’t do that with him.)
Aspen? Aspen doesn’t go hunting with us, sadly, though she was bred for doing precisely that. If we took her, she’d take off exploring, swimming, and doing her own thing, getting yelled at, scaring the ducks, and not looking to see which direction we are headed. She keeps us “in her sights,” though. We never lose her…(or, she never loses us). She’s merely “in the vicinity,” in her own world with her own goal, not really caring what our plan or goal is.
What are the advantages of Buddy’s training, and Buddy’s heeling? He gets pet constantly, because he’s within reach. He gets praised constantly, because he’s within earshot and is doing something worth being praised for. The best part, though, (for him) is that Buddy deserves to go on the duck hunts and swim.
I fully realize that it’s our fault Aspen was never properly trained. And, unfortunately, she’s paying the “fun” consequences for our failure. Watching her behavior and how much she misses out on, compared to Buddy, has taught me a convicting lesson. We have the option of being trained by God, to see the world, and His love for it, through His eyes. But, it’s entirely in our hands how much training we get.
As I watch Buddy on the water, but return home to see Aspen, I realize that both God and I miss out on quality bonding time and adventure together when I fail to heel at His side. With all of the tempting distractions life offers, I often end up behaving more like Aspen …off frolicking…paying little attention to what God is doing “in the vicinity,” and focusing more on my own goal and plan, rather than on His.
We “heel” by keeping God in the forefront of our minds. We heel by looking for His leadership and nod for every decision we make, by seeking advice in the Bible and in prayer, and taking heed to the words spoken through faithful Christian, Bible-seeking advisors who spend time with Him and care to listen to Him.
When we “heel,” we are close at hand to get loved on by Him. As a result of obeying, He will find us trained and useful enough to take on wondrous adventures to help change and improve lives for Him. What’s more rewarding than that?
Buddy sits right at Steve’s left side, watching the sky, watching Steve, and shaking and whining with anticipation (seriously; it’s quite annoying when we have to be quiet). But, when ducks come, he’s like a statue, waiting for Steve to shoot. Once he hears the command, “Buddy!” and sees Steve point his hand directly in line with the fallen bird, OFF Buddy goes with every ounce of his energy, excitedly bringing it back to his Master and friend. Steve takes the duck from him, and loves all over Buddy, telling him, “Good boy! That’s a boy!” celebrating with him, and greatly rewarding him for his obedience. Buddy adores the positive attention and the work he just did, and immediately, without being asked, sits right next to Steve, again, eager for the next one to fly over, because THAT was FUN!
Through this demonstration, the Lord has opened my eyes to a far deeper truth; one which I pray others will ingest as I have. I’ve seen that Buddy is actively fulfilling his life’s purpose by being both a loving companion to his friend and Master, and retrieving that which is so important and valuable to his Master. He is obeying his training, and it’s improving his life! Go figure.
Through Buddy, I’m reminded that “retrieving” is our purpose, though many forget that. We tend to do our own thing, like Aspen, following our own nose. But Paul told us, “So everywhere we go, we tell everyone about Christ. We warn them and teach them with all the wisdom God has given us.” (Colossians 1:28)
Buddy was taught to follow, so he does. In following, he’s rewarded, loved on, and has a blast doing it. He wouldn’t have it any other way! As a direct result…he desires to continue heeling and obeying, because it makes his life more rewarding and exciting.
Aspen is happy. She is loved-on daily. She is fed and is given water. Her needs are met, and more…just like God does with us. As happy as she is, would Aspen rather walk in Buddy’s paws, getting to swim in the water, chase birds, and shake the water from her soaked body all over me? You bet! She’d know no greater joy than doing what she was bred to do. And, ironically, Aspen has a far better sense of smell and retrieval skill than Buddy, which would make her an even better hunting dog than he is. It’s just too bad that she’d care more about her plan than ours during the actual hunt; that disqualifies her from going when it matters. (Lord, let that never be the way You view me.)
God has instilled unique skills in each of us, which get honed the more time we spend in “training” with Him. When we heel to His side, He’ll utilize those crafted skills in us to retrieve souls and help bring healing and joy to others lives in the most amazing ways imaginable. They will be skills we feel right at home using, and thoroughly enjoy. Like our Labrador, I want to be God’s hunting Buddy. How about you?
“He [Enoch] enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life.” Genesis 5:24
Genesis 6:9 “Noah was a righteous man…He consistently followed God’s will and enjoyed a close relationship with him.”
Joshua 22:5 ” Love the LORD your God, walk in all his ways [by his side, like Buddy], obey his commands, be faithful to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul [like Buddy does].”
Matthew 4:19 “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers [or retrievers] of men.”