What can one learn by pet sitting a friend’s dog for two weeks? An appreciation for one’s own dog, who is quiet and does not pee in the house, perhaps. But, I suspect the answer is supposed to be a bit deeper than that.
One night, early on in the visit, while “Ricky” was sitting by the door looking forlorn and my dog was making vain attempts at engaging him in play, I said: “You might as well enjoy it while you’re here, Ricky. You’re only here for two weeks, and it’s really not that bad. You’ve got your bed, company, food and water, frequent walks…make the most of it and before you know it you’ll be headed back home.”
Ho, ho! How easy it was to say, and how many times have I myself been like that puppy dog, sitting by a “door,” pining for something on the other side! How true it is that the grass is always greener just over the fence. Why is it that we often miss the blessings immediately surrounding us because we are too caught up in thinking about what we are missing? And perhaps more importantly, how do we fix it?
Through his letter to the Philippians (2:14) Paul tells us whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. And John reminds us: From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another (John 1:16). Adjusting to a new situation means adjusting our thoughts to focus on those things which God wants us to focus on. If we are busy counting our blessings, there will be less time for us to count our losses.
I have often struggled with “moving on,” feeling as though allowing my thoughts to stray from what I am missing is somehow unappreciative to where I have been. Or as though enjoying today means I enjoyed yesterday less. But this is not true. Counting our current blessings does not mean we are disrespecting the past or disregarding the future. It means we are acknowledging the new situation God has presented and acknowledging the blessings – one after another – He bestows.
We also need to do more than train ourselves towards positive thinking and acknowledging the blessings in our current situation. We also need to act. James admonishes those who think simply having faith is enough. What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:14,17). We need to think the right thoughts, but we need to follow through by doing the right deeds. God prepared in advance works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), and that includes right here, right now.
I learned quickly there is nothing like a good long romp to help an anxious dog sleep through the night, and there is nothing like taking action, become involved, reaching out to assist others to help us adjust to new situations. We may be someplace new and scary – physically, emotionally, spiritually – but it is not new and scary to God. As David writes, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). God put us here, right at this moment, for a reason. It is up to us to actually take action on what He ordained for us to do. You cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6). In other words, take action! Even if you are not sure what it is you are supposed to do, do something. You may not know what will succeed, but God does.
What can one learn from watching a friend’s dog for two weeks? Well, to start, it takes a bit of adjustment – for both of us. But more importantly, like Ricky, we need to make the most of the situations God presents to us. It is only for a little while, and before we know it, He will be back to take us home.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).