Have you ever taken a dog for a walk? I watch owners walking their dogs. Some dogs lead the owners and some owners lead their dogs. Some owners keep the leash short and others give their dogs a long leash to wander off the path.
Every morning after the boys get on the bus, I take our dog for a walk or a run. Our dog is 5 years old and we just got her in the spring. (You can read that story here.) If I’m not running, I give her a lot of slack on the leash and let her explore. She’s part terrier and as we walk, she’s always sniffing and looking to the left or the right and often darts off the path towards a squirrel or bird or rabbit or any other scent that catches her attention.
When I’m running, I don’t give her much slack and expect her to stay more focused on our course. As she tries to veer to the left or the right, I reign her back in to keep going.
This morning as she was pulling off towards a squirrel, I was reminded of a bible verse from Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
God has set before us a race, a course, a path to walk. His desire is for us to fix our eyes on Him. To seek him out each morning and throughout our day. To follow his lead. To desire to be where he is.
Yet, we so often fix our eyes on other things … on the squirrels off the path. We chase after worldly pleasures (money, stuff, success, praise of people, physical pleasure). And in doing so, we stop running the race marked out for us.
I got a picture in my head of God taking me for a walk. I’m the dog on the leash. He’s leading me down a path, but gives the leash some slack. Off to the side of the path I see a pan of brownies (my squirrel). I run off to the pan to start eating for pleasure or for comfort. God doesn’t want me to chase after the brownies … he wants me to go to him for pleasure and comfort, so he reigns me back in.
As we keep walking, I catch a glimpse of the new phone or van or house or TV or clothes or jewelry I want. I start chasing after them. Not that there is anything wrong with getting a new phone, or van (which we desperately need), or TV, or clothes, or jewelry. But is that where my eyes are fixed or are they fixed on the race God has marked out for me? Am I discontent and always wanting more, or am I satisfied and thankful for what I have? Again, God reigns me back to the path.
We continue walking. I start hearing the whispers of worldy praise. “Good job, Becki.” “Way to go, Becki.” “Thank you, Becki.” These whispers may have started out for things that I was doing for God: writing a blog, taking care of my body, serving in a ministry role, working, being a mom. But soon the praise pulls my eyes away from serving God and turns my eyes on myself. I start doing things to receive more praise and not for God. I like the accolades. I like feeling good about myself. I like people noticing me in a positive way. And soon, I run off the path chasing things that I think will make people notice me instead of things that I know will turn people’s eyes to God. And so, once again, God reigns me back to the path.
I could go on and on with all the squirrels (sin) that catch my attention and I chase after. But I hope you get the point. In First John, God tells us:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (2:15-17)
So this morning, I’m praying: God, hold my leash tight. Reign me in and forgive me for running off the path and chasing after worldly things. Thank you, Jesus, that you endured the cross, scorned its shame and now sit at the right hand of God to forgive me. My desire is to love you not the world and the things in the world. Help me to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles me and to fix my eyes on you so that I will run with perseverance the race marked out for me. Amen.