The Harris family has a 5 ½ month old puppy named Ozzie (after the shortstop, not the rocker). We think he’s probably the cutest, cleverest, friendliest puppy God ever created. He has mastered all the usual puppy tricks: he’s housebroken, sits on command, and walks miles on his leash. There’s only one flaw in our puppy’s training, but it’s a big one: Ozzie doesn’t want to come when he’s called.
Now, if Ozzie can see a treat or a leash in my hand, he flies to my side at the sound of his name. If he thinks it’s in his best interest to come, he can’t get to me fast enough. But most of the time, “Ozzie come” starts a game between the two of us. He ignores me. Or glances at me, and then ignores me. Or dances around me, darting close but never close enough for me to grab his collar. One puppy website calls the stage from 4-8 months “catch me if you can.” That pretty much sums up life with Ozzie right now.
One morning Ozzie escaped into the front yard and I chased him, yelling like a fool. I wheedled, cajoled, commanded, and he would not come. Suddenly I stopped at this thought: Ozzie was treating me like I treat God.
Make no mistake: I wasn’t acting like God, barefoot and hollering in my front yard. But I was calling the dog to come to me for his own good. If he ran out into the street, he might be killed by a car. In fact, I never call him to come unless I have a reason, and that reason is always for his good. The closer that puppy sticks with me, the better I can protect him, care for him, and show him affection. But he persists in playing games with me, or ignoring me altogether.
Ozzie, like me, wants to do what he wants to do. He’s not convinced that what I want him to do will either be fun or good for him. Unless he decides he will be “blessed” by coming close to me, he prefers to keep his distance. Even if something motivates Ozzie to come, he has no intention to stay.
Am I the only one who treats God like this? I draw close when I want something or need something, when I am hurting or confused or afraid. But I don’t really want to give up my “freedom” and submit to His lordship. As my pastor once said, I don’t really want God “inconveniencing my autonomy with His authority.” (OUCH.) James 4:8 NLT says “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” The reason I don’t stay close to God is evident from the next sentence: “… your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” I want what God has to offer me, but I also want what I think the world offers, and I dart between the two with a heart and mind divided.
Ironically, all He wants is to do good for me:
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul satisfy itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you… Isaiah 55:1- 3
God longs to shower me with goodness and mercy, and yet I “spend money for what is not bread, and [my] wages for what does not satisfy.” God help me, my rebellious heart betrays and endangers me. I recklessly spend everything valuable that He has given me- time, energy, talent, money, my life itself- chasing things that will never satisfy my soul. But what God wants to give me- joy, fulfillment, healing, protection, love, HIMSELF- is literally priceless. All I have to do is come close, and stay close, to receive what He died to give me. There is hope for us only because Our Father is longsuffering, merciful, and so very patient:
“My wayward children,” says the Lord, “come back to Me, and I will heal your hearts.” “Yes, we’re coming,” the people reply, “for You are the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 3:22 NLT
Verses for prayer:
Father, I confess I have been so foolish and ignorant, no better than an animal before You. Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory… My flesh and my heart fail, but You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For those who are far from You shall perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You. But it is good for me to draw near to You. I put my trust on You, O Lord my God, that I may declare all Your works. Psalm 73:21-23, 26-28
Father, I am tired. Worn out. Burned out on religion. And yet You say, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If I will just get away with You, I will recover my life. Show me how to take a real rest. Matthew 11:28 MSG, NIV
Father, I confess I often think You must be angry with me for my failures. But You didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. You have said for me to come now, and we will settle this matter. Though my sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. If I am willing and obedient, I will eat the good of the land, but if I resist and rebel, I will be devoured by the sword. I want to return to You, O Lord my God, because You are gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. You have promised, Lord, that the one who comes to You, You will never send away. Isaiah 1:18, Luke 5:32 NIV, Joel 2:13 ESV, John 6:37
Father I know You will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is stayed on You, because I trust in You. With resolute heart, help me to remain true to You, Lord. Isaiah 26:3-4, Acts 11:23
Father help me to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work You have given me, knowing that nothing I do in You is in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
O to grace how great a debtor/ Daily I'm constrained to be!/ Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,/ Bind my wandering heart to Thee:/ Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,/ Prone to leave the God I love;/ Here's my heart, O take and seal it;/Seal it for Thy courts above. "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"