BY REV. JAN WHITEMAN
LANGDON UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
On my last visit to my hometown in Pennsylvania, I stayed with my sister and her husband. At that time, they had recently gotten a young golden retriever puppy, who actually looked like a small horse even though he still had some growing to do yet! He was quite a big bundle of energy!
My sister suggested we take "Cooper" for a walk and brought out his collar and leash. When he saw that collar and leash, his eyes lit up and his tail practically wagged off! But I was really taken back by the collar -- a huge contraption -- stainless steel chains that had barbs pointing into the dog's neck!
I didn't say anything, but wondered how my sister could be so cruel! But Cooper really enjoyed his walks and seemed to be well-trained. So after a few blocks, I put the collar out of my mind -- until he saw a squirrel a half block away! He lunged forward, but quickly stopped as those barbs jabbed at his neck. At that point, I couldn't resist questioning my sister about using this torture collar on poor Cooper!
Well, I was amazed to learn that this type of dog-training collar is actually quite humane.
She told me that her vet had helped her understand why the collar is so effective. She said that if you've ever watched dogs playing together, you'll notice that once a dog latches its teeth gently on the throat of another, that dog has won. Its "victim" lies still, wags its tail and surrenders. Then, off they go to play again.
My sister further explained that this pronged collar has been called a "Christian" collar because of its gentle but effective nature! It actually distributes pressure in a tender but effective way to a dog's neck. The dog, feeling the pinch, surrenders its will to that of its master, without much pain at all. In fact, as I witnessed, Cooper gets quite excited when his collar and leash are taken off the hook and he knows it's time for his walk!
That collar is all about obedience.
I thought about Cooper and obedience just the other day. My husband and I had been on the mission field in the Central Pacific for seven years. As I've been preparing for a pre-moving garage sale, I came across the scrap books that I had put together documenting our missionary time. Lots of memories came back -- the heat, humidity and hardships we endured. But I also remembered the fulfillment and blessings I felt as we ministered to and with the beautiful island people. When we returned home for itineration and R&R, we spoke at many churches around the country, sharing about our work with our students in the name of the Lord.
However, a number of people asked us about the sacrifices we made and suggested that surely, God didn't expect such sacrifices from His children!
And what first might have looked like a cruelty -- like the prongs on the dog collar -- we wore with pride. We were blessed to be serving our master! The sacrifices were worth every minute!
Our God is very serious about obedience. I think about how God wanted Abraham to be willing to give up his son Isaac as a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:1-14)
When Abraham laid Isaac on the altar, he was accepting without question, God's "collar." I'm sure that Abraham felt the prongs lightly biting into his neck. Even still, in obedience, he surrendered his control to accept God's gentle yoke. God's loving response was not only to allow Isaac to live, but to provide the necessary sacrifice -- a ram, conveniently tangled in a nearby bush! So Abraham never had to worry about doing what the Lord wanted him to do, or what the outcome would be.
In serving Christ, we're often asked to give up our own agendas. That's what it means to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. God, like a dog's loving master, provides everything we need to accomplish His will. We, like Abraham, never need to fret over doing what God wants us to do -- or how it will all come out in the end.
"Abraham named that place "The LORD Provides." And even today people say, "On the LORD's mountain he provides." (Genesis 22:14)
As we think about walking more closely with our God, we would do well to bring our collar and then surrender our control to Him, in humble obedience, knowing that He still provides!