Pippy used to be allowed out in the front yard, footloose and fancy free. Or, in dog terms, uncaged, unfenced and unleashed. That is no longer the case.
In the evenings I used to open the front door and let Pippy wander out front, do her business and blow off a little extra energy before we hit the hay for the night. Most evenings she wandered in the yard without even approaching the street or wandering past the trees that divide our yard from the neighbors. But one night all that changed when a couple walked past with their Jack Russell Terrier in tow. Off went Pippy, running into and down the street, chasing after the dog and his owners.
She went crazy - crazy disobedient! I called her name in my "stern voice" that I put into practice when I mean business. That voice works like a charm, getting Pippy's attention in a moment. But not this time! That little stinker wouldn't come for love nor money. Not even a freshly grilled chicken could have drawn her attention away from the offending walkers on the street.
Finally the woman had to walk up my driveway so that Pippy would follow her away from the street and back toward the house. I apologized profusely. The woman was kind and understanding but I was mortified by the disobedience of my typically well behaved dog.
Well, when Pippy came through the door and ran back into the house I laid down the discipline. I reprimanded her for her terrible doggie behavior. Whenever I discipline Pippy I talk to her like she understands what I'm saying. I get serious. I furrow my brow. I talk slowly and deliberately. Words like "disappointed" get thrown around and phrases like "you know better" are key points in my lecture. I always end with this word of caution: don't you ever do that again!
If Pippy understands my words I'm sure she's thinking, "Yea, right Mom," while rolling her eyes. (I'm quite sure Pippy has a high level of human comprehension.)
After this particular evening incident I decided to no longer gamble on whether or not Pippy would listen in a similar circumstance should it happen again. Since that night Pippy has lost all freedom in the front yard privileges. She now must stay on the deck and a small patch of grass at the bottom of the deck's steps. The rest of the yard is inaccessible due to the snow.
Pippy is my responsibility to protect and keep safe. I won't take the chance that she might bolt into the street to chase any man, woman or dog walking past. And I can't take the chance that she'll stay away from cars zooming down the road. I need to look out for her. So from now on she is staying in the backyard behind the secure barrier of my home's white picket fence.
Like Pippy, sometimes I need imposed protection, someone to shield me from the dangers of the world. On my own I'm prone to wander like Pippy. I'll go running in a direction that could bring me harm. There are dangers that I don't comprehend, risks all around me that I can't see. There are dangers that Pippy doesn't understand like the concept of a street and large cars with big wheels. I suffer from the same limited perspective and understanding in my own life. There are paths and avenues in life that I don't understand the harm in traveling and exploring.
But God sees. God knows where the hidden dangers lie. He sees the obvious risks that I completely miss. Just as I have to step in and discipline Pippy to keep her safe, God steps in and keeps me safe, too. Sometimes He has to take me out of the front yard and put me behind a fence for the sake of my ultimate protection.
God knows the dangers in the road, so in His love He disciplines me and removes me from the street. At times He has to provide a protective barrier around me so that I don't wander off into danger. He safeguards my heart from evil. He keeps me from calamity and destruction.
I've been known to walk off in the wrong direction, neglecting warning signs and red flags. Still, God has stepped in like a loving Father and imposed restrictions on me so that I can remain in His safe care.
There have been times I've railed against the fences He's imposed. I've wanted to be out in the front yard where there is nothing keeping me from all the world and the road; where I can run as far as I want, as fast as I want. But God sees that limitless freedom isn't always the safest place for me to live. What I see as freedom might actually turn out to be a fast road to my own demise.
God has for me a freedom that will keep me safe and secure in His all-powerful arms. That freedom might be behind a fence, but it is a fence that encloses a garden filled with all the fruits of His spirit. Why would I ever complain when I am surrounded by such glory?
There is no safer place then in the will of God, behind His fence of ultimate refuge and safety.
As I rest in the security of the fence God has built for me I will praise His name with the words of the Psalmnist who wrote in Psalm 121:7-8, "The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore."
Pippy and I both need the correction and obedience that pulls us away from danger and puts our feet solidly on safe ground. For Pippy that means no more evening sniff sessions in the front yard. And for me, that means being pulled back to my childhood home so that I can be physically strengthened and spiritually grown. There is a safety here, behind the walls of His fence, that I wouldn't have chosen on my own. In His infinite wisdom, God knew that I needed to be taken away from the risks of the life I was pursuing. He saw the red flags I missed along the way. In His love He has pulled me back and put me behind the fence so that I can remain under His care, protected and safe. What a wonderful place to be! Right in the middle of God's will, in the glory of His refuge, surrounded by His grace. Thank you, Jesus.