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Women of the Advent | July 12, 2023

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25

Our beloved Great Pyrenees, Charlie, unexpectedly passed away at age eight. A short three months after he left us, my daughter suggested that we “just take a look” at another Great Pyrenees puppy. 

“You don’t have to buy it,” she said. “Just take a look!”

My husband and I both knew better, but against sound judgment, we drove two hours to “look” at Max — and were home with him two hours and seven minutes later.

While Max was the adorable fluff-ball that Charlie was as a puppy, as he grew (to 120 pounds, no less) we realized the similarities ended there. Charlie was obedient; Max had his own mind. Charlie was peaceful; Max was nervous. Max paced the yard, watching the street for anyone who could be remotely considered an intruder. Max barked… A LOT. With barely sufficient enticement he could blow past the electronic fence to joyfully gallop with a passing dog on a leash, terrifying the unsuspecting owner.

Max was given two rounds of (expensive) obedience school, to no avail. He still obeyed only when it benefitted him. He didn’t respond to our voices as he should have and did as he pleased, which did not endear him (or us) to the neighbors!

We were desperate.

We learned of a dog trainer who took a different approach and, as a last resort, we hired him. He diagnosed the problem immediately.

“Max’s problem is clear: he thinks he has to be in charge of everything. He doesn’t obey because he thinks he is in charge. But that is also the cause of his anxiety. He thinks he has to be in charge!”

The solution was to put Max on a leash held by one of us all the time. When Max would hear a sound that usually caused him to bark, we would say, “It’s okay, Max,” and would pull him a little closer to us. He would look up to us and then plop down his head and close his eyes, safe in the knowledge that WE were the ones in charge and he could finally rest — it was no longer all on him.

I think you can see where this analogy is going.

We live in an age like no other. We are told that we are responsible for deciding who we are, why we are here, and how to build our own lives… and all without a roadmap beyond our present age. We are told to look inside ourselves for our identity and true happiness. It is all on us.

If you are like me, you may find yourself feeling inordinately responsible (for your children’s choices or for those blind-siding “intruders” that come into your life) or simply thinking that you know better than God how the story of your life should go. We are just certain that God is not going to get the plan right! As if I created and sustain myself!

St. Augustine stated it so plainly: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

We need rest.

We need to know that we don’t carry the burden of our life. 

And we need to know that we don’t have to prove ourselves. 

Thanks be to God, our Savior has borne our sin, which is our greatest burden, and cleansed us from it. His work on the cross has given us a new identity. We are HIS; he knows us; we hear his voice; and we follow him. It is not all on us. (John 10:27)

There is a freedom in the rest our Good Shepherd gives us. We are not alone, and when we look to him in obedience and trust, we know that, regardless of what comes our way, he is caring for us.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

— Rita Wright

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