Most of my friends would describe me as tenacious. I rarely let up on a goal. While perseverance is a virtue, obstinance is not. Recently, my dog demonstrated the difference to me.
Our family is fortunate to share our secluded suburban property with an astonishing array of wildlife. Deer, fox, wild turkey, rabbits, duck, geese, egrets, and herons are all frequent visitors. In his youth, our dog, an American Staffordshire Terrier, would give them chase. Twelve years later, age and cataracts have dampened both Casey’s vision and inclination. That was, until we had an unexpected visitor.
My neighbor dropped by recently while on a walk with his daughter. “Did you notice there’s a swan in your pond?” he asked. Astonished, I went around to the backyard and saw this amazingly large and beautiful creature. Apparently, our shortsighted dog hadn’t noticed it either—until I went inside to get my camera. By the time I returned, Casey had leapt through his “invisible fence” and was dog-paddling toward the middle of the pond in pursuit of his prey.
No shouts from his master standing on the shore would deter him. He paddled relentlessly onward. As he neared his target, the swan rose up and flew to the other side of the pond, as if to mock his doggedness. Undaunted, Casey changed course and continued the pursuit. More calls from his master. No effect. My cataract-laden dog had apparently lost his hearing, as well.
It occurred to me, after witnessing several of these course corrections, that Casey would either get the swan or die trying. At his age, the latter was more likely. Since I didn’t have the heart to tell my daughter that her dog had drowned himself from fatigue and my neighbor had no interest in explaining our dog’s death to his four-year old, we both piled into my paddle-boat to rescue “Dumb Dog” (as I was now calling him).
As I reflected on our excursion, it occurred to me that God often rescues Dumb Me from similar pursuits. There He is, standing on the shore, calling my name, and there I am, pushing blindly ahead toward an ever evasive goal.
Even as we drew near in our boat, Dumb Dog would ignore us and deadly fatigue in favor of the elusive swan. Not until we positioned the boat on an intercept course could we divert his attention.
Now I’m wondering, What swans am I pursuing so doggedly that I can no longer hear the Master’s voice calling from the shore? Who might He have put on an intercept course to rescue me with the truth? And, Am I open to evaluate the direction I am pursuing in my life? Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Perseverance is a godly trait; obstinance is a “dogly” trait. The difference always has been listening for and obeying the Master’s voice.