Long before Isaac the dog found me, I knew that I wanted a Labrador retriever. I’d talked to dog lovers who raved about what good pets they were. I’d done some online research and was pleased with what I saw. So when this brown-eyed, cream-coated lab mix walked into my life, I knew a little about what to expect. For example, I knew that he would sniff around a lot. Yes, I know that all dogs sniff, but cut this first-time dog owner a little slack ☺ What I did not expect was that sniffing would nearly cause injury to both of us.
When we first started going for walks, two things would happen:
1. Isaac would drag me down the street as he joyfully ran and 2. Isaac would drag me into yards as he chased something only he could smell.
Sore-shouldered and neck-strained, I asked Isaac’s trainer what to do. He introduced me to a style of loose-leash walking that has led to some improvement in the first problem. For the second problem, he told me to teach the command of “leave it.” When Isaac would go after something he smelled, dragging me with him, I was to say, “Isaac, leave it! Let’s go.” There were some at-home exercises we practiced to encourage this behavior. The goal was for Isaac to resist the smelly temptations and instead to follow his loving pet parent. How wonderfully theological!
And how extremely difficult.
To give him credit, and to show that the training is working, there are times that he obeys the command to “leave it” right away. This behavior leads to lots of applause and treats from me. Sometimes, the opposite happens. He glues his back legs to the ground, stretches his front paws forward, and bobs his wet and curious nose. The 55 pounds of lab then pull me through mud and grass into puzzled people’s yards. I can yell “leave it” all day long, but Isaac is leaving nothing until he’s satisfied.
Most of the time, something in between these two scenarios occurs. Isaac will not obey immediately, but he also won’t pull me down. He’ll investigate, then investigate some more, and eventually he will follow me for the rest of his beloved walks.
One day recently, I was getting particularly frustrated with Isaac when he wouldn’t walk away from some unknown smell. There was a lot on my mind. I was thinking about past hurts and irritations. I was dwelling on things that should have left my mind a long time ago. As I looked at my puppy dog on the other end of a taut leash, I realized that like Isaac, I couldn’t “leave it.” Just as I kept telling him to move on, God was gently urging me to turn away from what was past and focus on the joy of the present walk.
Like Isaac, we all can be a little stubborn sometimes. We become distracted by things that we should let go. Just as he almost injures both of us in his disobedience, we can get so caught up in the past that it causes us, and others, harm. I’ve accepted the reality that Isaac and his sensitive nose will not “leave it” completely every single time. I also believe that with time and practice, the temptations to cling to what's past will lessen.
The same is true for us as we try to move forward in our lives and relationships with God. We can learn from the past, but we should not interrupt the joy of the present by dwelling on that past. In Psalm 17:5, King David prays, “Uphold my steps in your paths, that my footsteps may not slip” (New King James Version). May we follow in Christ’s footsteps and not try to forge our own paths. May we stay on the path that God has for us, acknowledging the past and its distractions, but “leaving them” as we walk forward into the beauty of the present moment.
All good things to each of you, Pastor Darian
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.