I have taken to opening my front door on my porch and letting Pippy out into the yard to do what she does best: sniff, explore, wander. She is a pro at sniffing out invisible wonders found in particular patches of grass. To me, all the grass looks the same but for some unknown reason, some grass catches Pippy's nose like you wouldn't believe. I can never tell when all of a sudden a blade of grass will catch her attention. When it does she stops dead in her tracks and sinks her heals down, nose to the ground, just begging me not to keep moving. She then indulges in the thrill of a good sniff.
This used to make our walks annoying at times. I'd be walking, my mind not thinking about what might lie in the next patch of grass and then, all of a sudden, my whole body would be abruptly yanked to the right as Pippy caught wind of something I couldn't detect. I would have no warning and my shoulder would pay the price. Now, with the addition of free sniff time in the yard, this isn't as much of an issue. Pippy gets her chance to smell at her leisure and my shoulder isn't at risk of dislocation. It is a win-win.
The only loss in this scenario is the occasional missing dog - not that she has gone missing for long, but there have been 5 or 10 minute periods where Pippy has gone MIA. She follows the sniff right out of the yard, into a neighbors back yard and clear into paths leading down the street. She wanders a bit far. This doesn't cause me to panic. I trust her nose enough to get her back home. So far, with the addition of a little calling out her name, Pippy has always returned. I still wish she wouldn't wander to begin with. I wish she would just keep the sniffing to the general area, where I can easily spot her. She is very obedient about coming back and usually doesn't take more then a minute to return after being called. By why not just stick around in the first place?
Then, it hit me. Pippy is me. I am Pippy. We are both so prone to wander, and even though we come back when prompted, we still stray off the path when no one is looking. For me, I don't wander to sniff, I wander in thought. I start filling my mind with negativity or with meaningless dribble that doesn't build me spiritually. I fall into the mind numbing place of stupid TV and dumb magazine articles on how to organize a bedroom closet for maximum efficiency. Not that organization isn't a good thing, but unless you are shopping for a California Closet system or in the middle of a spring cleaning event, chances are the article is simply a time filler and not so much a life changer. Plus, who truly needs to be told how to organize their closet? Isn't it pretty self explanatory. We all know deep down that to have an organized closet (or an organized life for that matter) we must purge the unnecessary. We all know it but try putting that one into practice! I have kept adorable printed flats for years just in case I ever find the perfect shirt to match so I can wear them to an event I have yet to know exists, must less been invited to. But gotta keep those shoes, just in case!
These are the useless matters that threaten to overtake day to day thinking. Spiritual growth takes a back seat. Focusing on learning more about God becomes a small part of a 15 minute morning devotional. The rest of the day becomes filled with the meaningless, the mundane and the fleeting.
Today, when I stood out on the porch calling Pippy's name I started to get frustrated. Where had she gone this time? I called and then paused. No Pippy. So I called her name again. Off in the distance I heard the distinct sound of the metal on her collar dinging against the clasp. I stayed silent, wondering if my ears were tricking me. Then a brush in the bushes behind my neighbor's garage. I paused another second and looked to the left of my house just in time to see Pippy bound from the gap in the neighbor's fence. She ran to the stairs and gave me her classic look: "You called?" Yes, now get in here!
I opened the door and called her name again. That silly dog went through her crazy routine to get up the stairs, just like she always does. She crouches down, sways back and forth (gaining momentum I suppose?) and then bonded up the 3 steps onto the porch.
She didn't wander to try to scare me or defy my authority. She just wanted to sniff. When I called, she was quick to head my command and come back home. I wish I could teach her to never wander in the first place. It is all well and good to have a dog that comes when you call, but what if her wandering got her in some trouble that she didn't intend to find? What if her wandering took her to a busy street and she ran in front of a car? She might get hurt, or worse, and not be able to physically make it back to the house when I would call for her. She might have never intended to wander that far or not come back when called, but circumstances would make it impossible for her to obey.
When I watched Pippy run onto the porch today it hit me that the same principle applies to me, too. I don't mean to abandon God when my mind wanders. When I worry or have negative thoughts I'm not intentionally trying to defy God or hurt him. Yet, that is exactly what I am doing. Even though I am well intentioned, I must stay focused as well. I can't wait till he calls me back every time. Yes, I listen when he calls. But why did I wander in the first place? Don't I know well enough by now that he wants me to be focused on him without him having to remind me? Just like a parent who constantly has to remind their child to make their bed, God doesn't want to have to remind me of the most basic aspects of our relationship: I am to be fixed on him.
My wandering hasn't come from a place of evil intended disobedience. I haven't been trying to rebel against God and his will. But just because I didn't intend for that does not mean it hasn't unintentionally occurred. My wandering mind has created a wandering heart. Instead of relying on God to call me back over and over, I need to focus my eyes on him without being prompted. I need to wake up each morning with my eyes on him and keep them there throughout the afternoon and into the evening hours. As the sun sets my eyes and heart must remain steadfast in their focus. A heart yearning for God isn't limited to a specific time during the day or a Bible study during the week. It must be an every minute, consistent and constant dedication to seeking out his face in all circumstances and all surroundings, each and every day.