Off the Leash

My friends’ dog broke free of its leash a couple of weeks ago. They just discovered that right around the corner from their house Rex was hit by a car and later died at the animal hospital. I know Rex was a dog, but his escape and its ensuing consequences made me think about how we all tend to strain against the leash, so to speak. We tell ourselves that we won’t be mastered; we demand our independence and yet we are unaware that we have given our lives to the greediness of our various appetites, obeying their every order while straining against restraint. It’s a paradox of which we are, mostly, blissfully unaware. Rex was the poster child…er…dog…for this dichotomy.

I realized a while back, following a friend’s off-handed remark that her stomach is not her god, that I could not make the same claim. Call it a moment of awakening. I had to admit that my appetite had mastered me. It was calling the shots and I was bowing in submission to its demands. I had allowed it to become my god, all the while believing that I was living in freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from the restraint of God’s word on gluttony. No, I didn’t consciously make this decision, and therein lies my point in part.  Hang with me while I get up in your business here.

Think about your daily routine. What can’t you live without? Oh, I know that you know you can live without your little pet habits, but really, what is it that has you on its leash? Is it caffeine? Is it your phone?  Is it that “one last try” at the lottery? Facebook? Pinterest? Does the god that holds your leash have a big blue sign that reads, “GOODWILL”, or a small one that entices, “Garage Sale”, or perhaps the mother lode…”MALL”? We give little thought to these seemingly harmless habits, enjoying our freedom to indulge here and there, and we don’t realize that we have become compelled to obey their urgings. Before long our freedom becomes slavery and (taking a lesson from Rex) destruction is on its heels.

What I’m learning through this awakening is that I have sold myself to my own urges. It’s ridiculous when you think of it. Who is in charge here anyway, the body that I simply walk around in, the sub consciousness that the world has programmed within me, or God? Have I abdicated control of my life to something so stupidly primal as my growling stomach? Do I run to appease its demands? Yes. Indeed I have, and I do. And I’ve been running flat out toward the busy street, oblivious to the danger. Like a dog off the leash. Or a fool.

As I think about poor Rex, I have to admit that my advanced intelligence does not elevate me far above his base impulse to escape his perceived restraint. Truth is: he had it good. Real good. And so do I. I serve a God who doesn’t keep me chained. I am completely free to seek either my own destruction, or His will. Like Rex at the end of a broken leash, I am free to leave the yard or wait faithfully for the one who will open the patio door, give me a bone, and scratch my ears.

There is beauty and mortal danger in that kind of freedom. When we choose to leave the yard untethered, doom awaits us just around the corner. When I think I’m choosing independence, I’m really only choosing a different brand of servitude and a different god to serve. When I tell myself that I’m under grace, I sacrifice my blood-bought freedom on the altar of my own impulses. When I blunder around unconsciously driven by blind impulses, I lock myself in the darkness of sinful ignorance.  Paul says it perfectly in 1 Corinthians 6:12. ‘“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.'

“I will not be mastered by anything.” ANYTHING. Including my desire to shuck God’s loving restraint and run amok in the world like a heedless moron. (I speak to myself here. There are currently no morons reading this post!!)

I’m not telling you that I have this figured out, but what I promise you unequivocally is that if you ask the Lord to expose your household idols, He will do so in a way that is both gentle and merciless. He will not play second fiddle to the god of your perceived need for a bite of chocolate. He will leave you alone to obey your chosen master…and He will allow the consequences that follow. And though He is with you, you go it alone. Do you understand? The kind of freedom I’m looking for doesn’t end with me beneath the wheels of a minivan…or an 18-wheeler.

The kind of freedom I’m looking for is the freedom to become a slave to the One who loved me so much that He died to prevent me from becoming eternal road-kill. In my freedom, I will resist the urge to take off in wild abandon to serve other gods. Yes, I will still hear their calls from just beyond the fence, but I am not obligated to answer. Instead, I will press my nose against the door and watch for my Master’s approach, leash in hand. Together we will walk in freedom, but I will not leave the yard without Him. (I’m praying for an electric fence for the days of weakness and folly!)

‘But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’  Joshua 24:15 (author’s editing)