Crisp morning air rather welcomed me as I left our home to go for a run. I prefer jogging in the woods on dirt than on asphalt streets, so I headed down our street toward Neff’s Canyon. At the trailhead there’s an unpaved service road leading up to the forest-covered mountain slopes.
As I settled into my running rhythm, I became absorbed in my thoughts. Suddenly, I realized that a black-and-white border collie was running beside me. When I stopped to greet her, she responded with eager enthusiasm. I’d hurt my knee a few days before, and she licked the painful spot. How could she know where I hurt? I wondered. Sensing something was wrong, she had done her best to ease my pain.
“It’s so nice to meet you, pretty doggy,” I said. “I’m going for a run. You better stay here. I don’t know where you came from. If you go with me, you might get lost.”
In spite of our “talk,” she would not be deterred in her ambition to be with me. Every time I started to run, she ran too. I love animals and have owned many pets in my lifetime. However, at that time I did not own a dog. I often thought of how nice it would be to have a dog to go running with me. I decided to let her join me. At least, we could enjoy one run together. I planned on keeping her close so that she wouldn’t get lost.
Most of the time she ran a little ahead of me. When she reached a fork in the road, she stopped and looked back. She wanted to know which way to go. As I approached, I pointed and said, “Go that way.” Amazingly, she did! What a well behaved little girl, I thought. She always looks back to make sure she’s doing the right thing. Even when I took the less traveled path, she eagerly stayed with me.
Sometimes she stopped and looked up at me with sweet, happy eyes. It was her way of saying, “Thank you, I’m enjoying this so much!” I’d pat her on the back and coo, “You’re a good girl!” Then off we’d go again.
As I ran, I imagined how she’d become a stray. I strategized on ways of convincing my husband to let me keep her. I’d tell him, “She needs a home!” along with every other angle I could think of to take.
Shortly after we arrived at another service road, she spotted a squirrel in the woods. Of course, being a dog, she “had to” chase the squirrel. She took off into the woods as fast as she could go. I was worried I’d lose her, but before too long she loyally came back to me.
The more time I spent with her, the more I realized she wasn’t just some stray dog. By her courteous manners and gentle disposition, I knew she’d spent a great deal of time with her master. Dog’s don’t naturally have such excellent demeanors without a master’s training.
She followed me all the way home. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with her. “Well girl, I have to go now. Thank you for the nice run we had together. Are you thirsty? Wait here. I’ll be right back with some water for you.” I placed a bowl of water on the front porch, and I could hear her lapping it as I closed the door.
At the time, my parents were visiting from California, and Mom had prepared a splendid fruit-and-oatmeal breakfast while I was running. We sat down to eat at our table situated next to a large window. Soon after beginning our meal, I saw the dog at the window. She looked so winsome peering in at us, as if to say, “I’m hungry too!” Dad noticed something I had missed under her shaggy coat. She had identification tags attached to a collar.
I went outside and retrieved her tags and read her name, “Roxy,” along with a phone number. Calling the number, I discovered her owner lived nearby. Hopes of making her my own vanished, but I was thankful she would be where she belonged.
Roxy left a significant impression on me. It was a chance encounter, but the impact filtered into my future. Roxy’s simple life “spoke” volumes that she had been with her master. Even without knowing her master, I could tell by Roxy’s pleasant disposition that she was reflecting her master’s love. As the saying goes, “Nice people have nice dogs and mean people have mean dogs.”
I asked myself, “Does my life reveal that I’ve been with my Master? Am I naturally pleasant? Does my demeanor exude a polite temperament? Do I reflect the Master’s disposition? Do I habitually look to my Master for guidance and direction? Can others tell my Master is loving without my saying a word?”
Regrettably, I was unable to answer yes to all those questions—but Roxy could! And she did so with such ease! Something’s wrong. A border collie is a better Christian than I am! I mused.
I want to follow my Master all the way home to heaven. I don’t want to be lured away by frisky diversions. I want to ease the pain of others. I want to follow my Master wherever He leads, even if His path seems undesirable. I want to trust Him with a loyal heart of love, regardless of the cost. I’ve always wanted those things. I’ve experienced fleeting mountaintop encounters, but most of the time I’ve lived in the valley.
The harder I’ve tried, the worse it got. Frustrated and discouraged, I just wanted to give up. I’ve always read the Bible a little and attended church. Yet, I thought all God wanted from me was obedience. I felt like a soldier. When the Captain ordered me to jump, I was to ask, “Which way and how far?” To me, it seemed that He didn’t care whether or not I was happy. I thought He scrutinized my every move and was ever ready to “catch me in the act.”
Gradually, I’ve come to sense I haven’t had the right motivation. Roxy acted the way she did out of a heart filled with love. I did things because I was supposed to, because it was “expected” of me. I’ve come to realize that living life with that mind-set, love—the supreme motivator—was missing. So now I ponder the thought, How do I get to the place where I begin doing things out of a heart filled with love?
Since running with Roxy, I’ve concluded I’ve had the wrong view of my Master. Theoretically, I’ve believed that Jesus loves me, but I need to experience His love in a life-altering, tangible way. I can’t expect to treat others with love unless I’ve experienced the love of my Master for me.
My relationship with Him has been superficial. I need to stop focusing on myself and my behavior and behold my Master. By God’s design, whatever anyone “beholds,” they become. By beholding Him, His character is gradually infused into my soul. As Ellen White put it, “By beholding Jesus we receive a living, expanding principle in the heart, and the Holy Spirit carries on the work.”
Beholding Him helped me recognize that to love someone, I have to trust them, and to trust them, I have to know them. And to know them I have to spend time with them. Roxy spent countless hours with her master. She trusted her master implicitly and loved her master with her whole heart. Her heart was so full of love it simply flowed out and spilled on everyone she met.
Remembering Roxy’s undeterred ambition to be with me gave me a glimpse of my Master’s undeterred ambition toward me. In some ways my Master is like a watchdog, guarding me, protecting me, and if necessary, even sacrificing His own life to save me. Wow! Come to think of it, He did that very thing two thousand years ago. And He still protects all of us against the attacks of Satan, that roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Now, instead of reading the Bible to find out what I’m supposed to do, I read to learn more about my Master. What is He like? How did He treat others? How did He respond to problems? What motivated Him? I look for Jesus to learn of His personality, His character, His demeanor, His temperament. The more I read with that mind-set, the more I admire Him. He is beyond reproach. He is perfection.
I’m learning that love for God isn’t about striving. It’s about surrender. Incredibly, I don’t have to do anything to earn His love. He loves me simply because I am one of His children. I’m learning that my Master is the Someone to whom surrendering my trust is completely safe. I’m learning that He moves my mind and heart from association with Him to transformation through Him.
I’m learning to be confident in Philippians 1:6, which says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” When I welcome Him into my life every day, “He works in [me] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
And I’m convinced it’s His good pleasure to fill me with His love so that my actions will reflect that I’ve been with my Master.