One dog is the border collie who belongs to the farm; his job is to help herd the cows each day. If you’ve ever met a working border collie, you know that they are usually very intense dogs; they would love to be herding something all day, if possible.
The other dog is my own lovable mutt. He, like his cousin the border collie, likes to be active, but work is not so much on his mind. In fact, he’s not good for a whole lot, when it comes to accomplishing things.
If you were to drive up the hill to our farm, both dogs would probably meet you, both more or less muddy, both excited to see you, both hoping that you might have a cookie for them like the mailman always does. Both of them would be eager to leave some token of their appreciation on your clothes, the border collie in the form of muddy footprints, and the other in the form of doggie breath scented slobber on your face. But after the initial greeting was over (whew! You survived!) the difference between them would be evident. The border collie would disappear for a moment or two, and return with several sticks (he can carry up to four at a time in his mouth). He would deposit them at your feet, where he would stare at them until you, naïve visitor, would bend down and throw them for him to fetch. Thus you would become his life-long stick thrower; any time that you have a couple spare moments, he will go get you a stick to throw for him.
The other dog might have some interest in running after the sticks (especially if he felt like competing with his cousin), but would get completely distracted as soon as you smiled at him or showed signs of petting him. Then, he would be all wiggles and wags, turning his body into a horseshoe shape and going in circles in order to keep passing under your petting hands, and look adoringly into your face at the same time. If he’s really VERY happy to see you (don’t be flattered, he’s really VERY happy to see everybody), he might even pull his lips into a snarling position (it’s just a very toothy smile) and utter a joyous, “woo-oo—OOH!”
When I’m working in the garden, the one dog will be at my heels, jumping at every single clump of weeds that I toss away (they are a poor substitute for sticks, but will do in a pinch). The other will lay down in the grass near where I’m working, or come over every so often to exchange kisses. When I go for a walk, the one dog will range far and wide, chasing sandpipers or playing with his cousin until he gets bored and returns to the farm. MY dog will also go exploring in the grass, or jump into the pond for a swim, but he frequently looks back to see where I am, and if I lay down in the grass to enjoy the beauty of the day, he’ll often come find me and sit down nearby, like a sociable sentinel.
Now as I said, both dogs have their lovable points, and both fill a place in the lives of their respective owners. Of course I am biased toward my dog. Yet I have to ask myself, which dog better represents me, in my relationship to God? When I come to Him, do I always bring a project for Him to work on, a problem for Him to fix, a stick for Him to throw for me? Do I love my God for the things that He gives me, and does my love flag when He withholds some desire? Or do I come to Him full of wiggles and wags, enjoying His gifts, but most of all glad to see His Face, to give Him kisses of love and worship, and to enjoy the stroke of His loving hand?
The answer is revealed when He withholds the thing that I want more dearly, the hope that I cherish above all others. Do I mistrust His love, and take things into my own hands? Or can I face the very real possibility that He does not intend to give me that particular gift after all, and in that knowledge say, “I want You more, Beloved. Nothing You could give me would be worth more than knowledge and enjoyment of You.”
And just like I treasure those doggy breath kisses, God takes delight in even my feeble loving of Him.