I grew up with three dogs in the house. Not those little dogs that could just as easily be mistaken for cats, I’m talking about real, small-horse sized dogs. Our dogs loved people. More specifically, they loved jumping up and licking people in the face.
However, we lived in a suburban neighborhood, and in a place like that you have to be extremely careful with your dogs. If you don’t train them well and have good control over them, cranky old neighbors have the right call the cops whenever they feel their peace is being disturbed.
The first thing we did when we got our dogs was to install an invisible fence. If you don’t have one of these, it’s basically an electrical wire buried in the ground, the same place an actual fence would go. Then, you put a collar on the dog, so when they get close to the wire it will beep, and if they cross it, they get shocked.
I think the world treats us the same way when we are growing up. There are invisible parameters set around how you need to live your life. When you get too close to the line, you will start to hear some chatter. When you push a little further, you’re going to get shocked.
When you first put an invisible fence in your yard, you have to train the dog by enticing him across the fence line. I know it sounds awful, but the only way for them to learn the boundaries is by getting shocked.
Once they are trained and aware that they are being shocked because they aren’t supposed to cross the line, they still have a decision. Unlike a real fence, an invisible fence is penetrable and you can see through it. This means that every time a squirrel runs by, or another dog is walking across the street, our dogs have to decide if their goal is worth being shocked by the collar.
It’s the same with the way we live our lives. When there a decision to be made, we weigh the costs and benefits and ponder if it’s worth it. Often times when God is calling us, it is from across the fence. As children, our first reaction is to run after him because the cost seems minimal. But because of our training, we hesitate and it is no longer our instinct to see God as worth the expense.
For the first few months, or even years, our dogs almost always valued the squirrels, bunnies, and dogs as worth the chase. But as they grew older, Kirby, Roxy, and Roo never dared to cross the fence. They had chased enough squirrels, licked enough faces, and sniffed enough butts. To them, the cost of being shocked grew too high. It actually is to the point now where they don’t even wear their shock collars, they just know to cross the line.
That’s my fear for us. Society teaches us not to step outside the bounds it sets for us. No matter how invisible they are, what we see on the other side of the fence, or if we are even wearing the collar, we plant our feet firmly on the safe side of the fence.
Don’t think God calls us into danger? Let’s look at one guy specifically who was shocked far more than any of us. Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians //
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
He later writes that he considers EVERYTHING a loss compared to the surpassing love that Christ offers us. That means that if he could do it again, he would take those beatings, stoning, and danger, all because it brought him closer to Christ.
The picture above makes me smile. It is one I took of my dogs last winter during a snow day. I took them to a park and let them loose to run around the park. When I called them in, this is the image I snapped. What if the American church looked like that?
Society put us in this confined space with an invisible fence, but the beautiful thing is we have the option to take the collar off. We don’t have to live under all this fear of judgement and persecution. Let it go, take your collar off, and experience God’s love to the fullest extent. Only then will we be able to run free in the park and prance towards our master with smiles on our faces.