Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
I have very little experience with horses, but this verse rings true to me nonetheless. What I do have is a dog that I absolutely adore. Actually, I have two dogs but one if them is squarely my dog.
When she was a puppy, she would only sleep in the crate if it was positioned where she could see me in the bed. If I leave through the downstairs door, she is often found waiting for me on the top stair when I return.
Her crate days are long over, and while she has branched out a little and often ventures into rooms I am not present in, she does still, for the most part, follow me like… well, like a puppy dog. She is an excellent companion. I trust her around children and rarely have trouble getting her to obey promptly.
Unless, that is, she sees a squirrel.
I don’t know what it is, but the bouncy little guys trigger something deep in her doggy brain that nothing else does and she is prone to dart after one when she spots it.
And so, on our frequent walks together I use a leash. When she was younger, she would strain against the leash at the enticing vision of one of the little rodents fitfully searching for its winter hoard. Age and many miles of experience walking on a lead has tempered her interest, and now she only acknowledges them with a perk of the ears… or sometimes not at all.
Even so, I keep that leash on when we walk. She has proved in the past that she needs it, and I am aware of dangers that do not enter her canine consciousness. I confess I have envied the occasional hiker I’ve seen whose dog trots faithfully, leash-free, at his heels, but I am not yet willing to risk my dog’s safety with such heady freedom as that. Someday, perhaps, but for now I have seen enough interest sparked by a scurrying squirrel to keep my dog tethered on our excursions.
It is the same with us… Some of us have learned that our God is so good, so wholly trustworthy, and so incomprehensibly wise that we will eagerly follow His footsteps on the narrow path. That isn’t to say we might not look around or hesitate, but we come at his bidding and regain our place at His side with little fuss.
I long to be like that, and by God’s grace I truly believe that someday, He will bring my training to just such a point. I strongly desire to be more eagerly responsive to His quiet calls, more mindful of where He steps, less tempted to wander away at the slightest diversion; in short, to fix my eyes on my Master alone as we walk along.
However, I confess that I am by no means as close a follower as I ought to be. I am not yet to a point where I never require a “bit and bridle.” What I have learned, however, is not to strain against such apparatus when God attires me in it. As I have grown more trusting of Him, grown to love Him more and more, I notice the bit and bridle less, in part because I fight them less.
More often these days, my eyes are fixed on Him and we have taken some few little adventures together where I walk free, bound only by adoration for my King. Even so, I know that any moment I demonstrate a need for His restraint, He will promptly provide it.
Because He is a perfect Father, He will give us each the measure of discipline we deserve. If we need a bridle to keep us from straying, He will supply it. Should we need a rod applied in discipline, He will apply it as vigorously as the situation requires to curb our error and bring us back into the safety of His presence.
Make no mistake — if we need correction of any sort, correction we shall have– not because He is a tyrant, but for our welfare, to keep us from wandering into danger. Because He loves us and in His infinite wisdom, knows dangers our created minds cannot fathom. Because He is good.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.