PASTOR'S PERSPECTIVE: CITY DOG OR COUNTRY DOG?
James Bryan Smith, in his book The Good and Beautiful God, a book about falling in love with God over and over again, talks about the difference between dogs that he owned when he lived in the city, and a dog that he owned when he moved to the country. Smith says, "Do you know the difference between country dogs and city dogs? This is a wonderful illustration about our new identity in Christ and how we go about living the Christian life. Country dogs live in the wide open spaces with a great deal of freedom to roam. They can go down to the creek, wrestle with a skunk, sleep in a sunny pasture or forage for food. And at first they do. But after a while the country dog stays in the same old place, day after day, on the master's porch. The country dog has been to 'Paris' as they say. He has gotten into a few scrapes and has seen the open range for what it is. Now, the country dog is content to stay near the master. After all he may get a biscuit, or a pat on the head, or a belly rub"
"The city dog is quite different. The city dog lives cooped up in a house and is forbidden to leave the home. The city dog has one aim: getting out! The city dog has learned when and how the doors will be opened, and how to nudge it just so in the hope of escape. The moment it is cracked open, the city dog makes a run for it. The master may have to run after the dog or even get in the car and search the neighborhood for the fugitive, constantly yelling the dog's name, begging it to come home. (Who hasn't seen a 'missing dog' poster?). If the master sees the dog , he or she will have to bribe the dog, or lasso the dog with a leash in order to get it home".
We had two dogs that fit that image to a "tee". Our city dog was Justin's dog named Maizy. She only lived with us in the country, but she qualified for a city dog because she had to always be penned up and confined. She was a beagle. A hunting dog. It was in her DNA to love to run. She lived for the hunt. Any chance she had to break free-she was gone! It usually meant that she would be gone at least one night, maybe two, chasing God knows what! Justin spent many a night outside calling for his dog to come home. You could even hear her barking off in the far distance, but could never locate her! Our dear beloved Church family, at Justin's request, prayed for the return of his beloved pet! She usually would be discovered by the steps dirty, totally exhausted, and would literally almost be unable to walk or move for two days as she recovered! We were amazed that a dog her size, barking all night, somehow avoided the cyotes, foxes, and other preditors out in our country environment. One time she didn't make it back, but could be faintly heard, way off in the distance. I tromped quite a ways, through a muddy bean field, to find her, (she was so short she could not be seen in the field), and the chain she had broken free dragging had gotten tangled in the beans and she had been trapped there for over 24 hours! She was real glad to see me and be carried back to her bed at home! Smith described our city dog to a tee!
We had our country dog too. We still do. He is a Collie-St. Bernard mix. He is a big boy we rescued from the pound and he lives outside. He has the freedom to go anywhere. Occasionally he will make a brief jaunt somewhere, out behind the barn, or in the corn-field. But over-all, even with all that freedom, he lays by the big tree in the middle of our yard, bordering the drive, and watches for cars coming up our lane. As soon as he sees our car, he jumps up. He greets us as we pull up. Greeting each passenger, one at a time, for that pat on the head. He is fond of rolling over and receiving that greatly-to-be desired "belly-rub" too. He too fits Smith's image of the country dog.
The value of this canine cariature by James Smith is when he applies them to models of differing Christians! Listen to his brilliant application-"Those who approach the Christian life with a set of rules and laws and dos and don'ts are like the city dog. My experience is that many Christians feel cramped and confined, and would love to escape their Master's rules". (If we are honest we would all admit that we have been there and done that!). Many Christians feel like they have missed so much. They have been too protected. Somehow God has kept from them something they might really enjoy! After running off to the far country-wasting their substance on riotous living-spending all, and ending in the pig pen they understand the why of God's restraint from their roaming, but not usually before.
Smith continues, "Those who understand their identity in Christ are like the country dog. They know they are not under the law. They have the freedom to leave and to roam at any time to anywhere. They know that they can sin, but having sinned before, they know better!" There is always a price to pay! Some miserable times in the far country. The shame of coming back! Even though they are always welcomed back with rejoicing by the Master that so loves them! They are now content to living near the Master. One writer put it this way-'the spiritual life is not a life of laws and precepts but a life of participation, affection and love, a life mingled and mixing with God'. "
Christian maturity has a way of transforming those restless "city dogs" into content "country dogs". Their restless spirits have been tamed, and their greatest joy is the presence and pat of their beloved master. Let those other dogs run and risk. They know who they are. They know where they belong. They know they are loved. Especially they know who loves them! That is all they want-and need! What kind of dog would you say you are? I hear it is beautiful "in the country"!