Keep a Short Leash

~~I came home from my walk this morning and my husband was watching “The Dog Whisperer”. We don’t have dogs, but we love them anyway, in theory and at a distance. It’s funny how neurotic they can be. This morning Caesar was “whispering” to an Australian Shepherd that was afraid of the new baby gate. I mean this dog was terrified of that gate. I missed the beginning so I don’t know if there was a precipitating event or if this was an entirely irrational thing. Well, let’s face it, event or not, for a herding dog to be terrified of a stationary baby gate is a bit irrational, but who am I to talk. Anyway… Caesar’s solution was to make the dog face its fear. So, you know right where I’m going don’t you? Uh huh. ‘Cause it was just that good. My husband was like, “Are you crying because of the dog?!” Uh…no.

Here’s how it went. Caesar would take the dog’s leash very firmly in hand, walk the quaking dog right up to that gate, and make it stand there until it relaxed. At first, the poor thing cowered behind Caesar’s legs. Then it would peek around his legs but only out of the corner of its eye. Then Caesar would rein in the tension on the leash until the dog was right beside him facing that evil gate square on, legs quivering, pulling at the leash to turn around and run. And it stood there until it could stand there without shaking, cowering, or straining at the leash - until it could look at that gate without flinching. That was step one.

The second part of the exercise was where I started feeling a little something in my stomach. Like this was familiar somehow and profound – like I really needed toy pay attention. Once the dog relaxed enough to face the gate, Caesar would turn the dog around with extreme tension on the leash and make it walk away. It could not run. It could not look back to see if the gate was coming after it – and that poor dog tried! It strained so hard to see behind it that only the whites of its eyes were showing! That dog was as afraid of the gate being at its heels as it had been approaching the gate straight on. Once the dog was able to successfully complete both steps, they did it again. And again. And again.

Face the fear.
                  Turn and walk away.
                                               Not like hell is on your heels.
                                                                                   Like the One who’s walking next to you has

The gate was never the enemy, the fear was. The gate was never what needed conquering, the fear did. The dog was still afraid of the gate, but it had learned to stand steady in spite of the fear. It did not learn to trust itself. It did not learn to trust the gate. It learned to stop resisting the leash that continued to lead it in and out of fear’s presence. It learned to trust the one at the end of the leash who led it there and walked beside it to protect it.

If you’ve read my last few posts then you know I’ve been in a hard place – a place that has forced me to face (OK…run from!!) some fears. (Sorry I’ve been so gloomy! It happens, you know?). It doesn’t matter if those fears have a basis in the truth of experience. It doesn’t matter even if they don’t. What matters is that the Lord did not give me a Spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. What matters is that He is the Lord my God who brought me out of my Egypt so I would no longer be a slave. He broke the bars of my yoke and made me walk with my head held high. What’s important to know is that even though I walk in the midst of trouble – even in the valley of the shadow of death – He preserves my life. He stretches out His hand against the anger of my foes and with His right hand He saves me. What I need to know most urgently is that the Lord goes before me and will be with me and will not leave me – I need not be afraid or discouraged for He is my strength and my shield. He will keep me in perfect peace if my heart is steadfast in my trust for Him …The Rock Eternal.

In a couple of weeks, I’m going into enemy territory where I will face some very real fears. There is the truth of experience there – experience that may repeat itself. God never promised that what we fear would not come to pass. He said that He is in control. Not I. Not my fear. He. Is. In. Control.

The enemy is shrewd and his weapons effective but even then, God redeems all. His purpose is to make us into the image of His son. That image was forged on the cross where even Jesus had to face his fear – fear that did not diminish in the experience, but could be endured because of Hope. I should expect no less for myself. I will not escape my fears. I will face them (because He keeps insisting on it!). I will learn to endure the terror and the outcome. Then I will turn and I will walk home with my Master. I will walk. I will not run. I will not cower. I will not quake. I will let my Master teach me to trust Him. I will let Him make me into a woman of power and love, with a sound mind.

Lord…it’s a long walk! Keep a short leash!