He snarled and lunged at the trainer as he walked by; he growled at some of the younger pups when they would innocently approach him to sniff him. It took a lot of my (Colin) strength to hold him back when he would lunge at the people and dogs at the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) gathering. It was at this point I knew my new dog Remi had more issues than I had realized when we adopted him. That was two years ago.
We adopted Remi (our Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) May 14th, 2016. At only 8 months old, we were his third home, which would be hard on any dog, but it is particularly difficult on Griffs. By the time we attended the NAVHDA meeting in June, we knew we needed help to train Remi. So, we called our friend Travis, a dog behaviorist, to help us figure out what to do. We learned that Remi was very insecure due to being shuffled around, and that it would take him about 6 months to 12 months to stop his negative behaviors if we regularly worked with him.
In our long (and sometimes frustrating) journey in training Remi, I have seen some striking parallels in my relationship with my dog, and my relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the first post in a series of the top five things my dog has taught me about my walk with Christ!
1. The Pains of the Past are Not Easily Overcome
As I mentioned, Remi was 8 months old when we got him. But in those 8 months he was rejected twice and never cared for or trained the way he should have been. Our friend Travis (the dog behaviorist) told us it would take 24 months (3 times his age at the time) for Remi to fully trust us. It got me thinking about us as people, and how we aren’t all that different. The past often has a lasting affect, especially if it is a traumatic or painful past. I once read, “You can choose to view your past with perspective or pain, but forgetting is not an option.” For me, Jesus Christ gives me the perspective to view my past. While I have not had a very dramatic or painful past, I have had a few painful events and experiences that certainly impacted me. Those events caused me to change the person God made me to be, and it took me years to work through the affects of my past.
Knowing Jesus as my savior certainly doesn’t change my past or any of the mistakes I’ve made. But knowing Jesus does change how I view my past; it gives me the perspective to know that God gives me a new identity in Jesus, and my past and sin doesn’t define me. What defines me is who I am in Christ and the person He is making me to be. Romans 6:22 says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you get leads to…eternal life.”
Knowing Jesus also changes who is at the center of my story. Instead of looking at my past and thinking, “Look at all the bad things that happened TO me.” (victim mentality), I can look at my past and know, “Look at how God worked in my life, even through THAT circumstance!” In fact, the bigger the struggle, the more powerful ways I can see God at work!
So, in summary, the first thing my dog taught me about my walk with Christ is this: The pains of the past can have long lasting affects, and time alone does not reverse those affects. Remi could not have altered his mindset on his own from the pains of his past; it took loving masters (my wife and me) to show him how to change. So it is with us, it takes a loving Master to set us free from the chains of the past, and the chains of sin. We can’t do free ourselves on our own. We need Jesus!