We had always had a dog, but our beloved dog Skippy died at the ripe old age of 18. Losing a canine child is terribly difficult, and we decided not to have any other dogs so we would not feel that pain again.
But, we missed having a little dog in the house, with the unconditional love they extend, and with the wagging tail when you return home after the workday.
As we were driving past a pet food store, the marquee said that there was a greyhound “meet and greet” going on inside. We stopped purely to see what greyhounds looked like. After all, the only impression I had of them was from seeing their outline on the Greyhound Bus. We certainly did not want to adopt a big dog – we were little dog people!
When we saw these beautiful, dignified, graceful, and very lean animals, we immediately thought that having a tall dog might not be bad! Actually, we started the adoption process that very day and the next week we had a new member of the family. And, for the next 10 years we were blessed with three greyhound children in our home.
I was going through some old pictures recently and found this one of the first of our greyhounds, our beloved Glitz. This was taken just a few days after we adopted her. We had been told that she was used to, and even liked, being in “her” crate, that it was a source of comfort and security for her. So, we kept her in the crate while we were away from the house and at night.
I did not like to have her in the crate that much but she did not seem to mind. Life in the crate was what she was used to. We were told that at the racing track, the dogs were kept in their crates the vast majority of the time, being let out for bathroom breaks and eating. If they were scheduled to race, then they had more attention, but for the most part, what they saw was through the bars of the crate. No time for play. No time for snuggling. No time for anything other than being in their crate.
It was what they knew and understood. It was not inhumane. It was the life she knew. She loved to run. I have heard it said that the race dogs were likened to a man’s tools. You take good care of your tools, but you don’t necessarily love them. The animals had whirlpool baths to massage their muscles after a race. They had high protein food to fuel the race, and special treats when they returned to the kennel after they had worked hard. But, they were tools. You use them for what they are for and then you put them away until the next time they are needed.
Our beloved Glitz ran at the track for 5 years. She was, therefore, apparently a successful competitor. But, one day, the decision was made to put her in retirement.
That is when, after some time in a foster home to acclimate her to living off the track, we saw her at the pet store and fell in love with her instantly!
Glitz seemed to be comfortable in her crate and would stay in it for hours, but then she had a taste of real freedom — freedom to roam the house, freedom to lay on the sofa if she chose to do so, or freedom to lay on her “doggie bed” with her favorite toy by her chin, even while we were gone.
Ultimately she understood that she was safe in the house with us, that she did not need to be in her crate to feel secure, and that she would be loved without being harmed or injured by us. She no longer needed the crate for her security. What she discovered was that she was safe with us and could experience life rather than just looking at it from afar.
In some way, her experience is reflective of our experience. We are born into whatever circumstance or situation God selects for us. Sometimes it is harsh and difficult. Sometimes it is comfortable and loving. Sometimes difficult illness hits us when we are children, and sometimes that illness or other circumstance destroys the family that we knew.
No matter what the situation is, we are born into our own “crate”, and we find security in it, possibly despite the chaos that reigns in the family or in the other conditions of life. Some are abused, but even if we have not suffered in that way, we like our crate. The familiarity is the only comfort that we think we need. The problem is, of course, that we are not living as fully as we could because we don’t really know freedom. Indeed, we cannot know freedom because we are born in sin, the ultimate crate of all mankind. Because of that, we cannot be in union with God
J. I. Packer says this about our inability to enjoy God while we are in bondage to sin:
We have no natural ability to discern and choose God’s ways because we have no natural inclination Godward; our hearts are in bondage to sin, and only the grace of regeneration can free us from that slavery. This, for substance, was what Paul taught in Romans 6:16-23; only the freed will (Paul says, the freed person) freely and heartily chooses righteousness. A permanent love of righteousness – that is, an inclination of heart to the way of living that pleases God – is one aspect of the freedom that Christ gives. (John 8:34-36; Galatians 5:1, 13)
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, Tyndale House, © 1993, Foundation for Reformation, p. 86. The Apostle Paul says this in Galatians 5 as cited by Dr. Packer above:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. … For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:1 and 13.
We can live in the power of God and His love as expressed through the sinless life of our Lord Jesus Christ because He willingly suffered on the cross in our place so that we could live eternally with Him. That freedom from sin and freedom to life is what enables us to accomplish all that God has ordained for us to do. That freedom enables us to serve others in love.
Rejoice in the Lord. Be excited about your life in Christ. Let your joy radiate from you so that others who are still in bondage in the cage of sin will desire to seek the Lord so that their life, too, can be transformed by the Spirit.
Rejoice in the Lord, always!
Father, thank You for Your Son and for the salvation that He has made possible. Thank You for opening my cage door so that I could be released into Your loving arms and experience life in all its beauty through Your Spirit, now and forever.