"Don't jerk the leash," the instructor warned us. "Jerking the leash just makes the dog pull back harder."
Instead, she told us to lure the dog with the promise of treats. Reward the dog whenever she walks on the leash without pulling your arm out of socket.
So we walked the dogs in dizzying circles around the training room, praising them when they behaved, and waiting patiently when they pulled and whined.
I had never before considered the idea that I am leashed to God; but the truth is, he can pull me back into line whenever he wants with one good, hard yank. I have to learn to be content to walk by his side without racing ahead or dragging behind.
We get ahead of God by moving too fast and running beyond his command. Pulling the leash means making choices before we are ready or making decisions without carefully considering and consulting God first. When we break our bonds and race ahead, we risk dashing into dangerous territory and unhealthy situations that threaten our peace and safety.
We fall behind God by denying our potential and refusing to follow the paths he has planned for us. Dragging our feet means refusing to accept the opportunities God delivers or being afraid to face the challenges we need to help us learn and grow. When we have to be tugged reluctantly toward the changes and circumstances God offers, we stop growing and fail to become the people God means for us to be.
If we don't listen to God's cues, we keep trotting around the circle, wondering why we're never off the leash, wondering why our point of view never changes to encompass the broader range of experiences we know could be available to us.
But if we learn to be patient, trust God to lead, and walk calmly by his side; he gives us more freedom and the reward that is waiting at the end of the line.
How do you know when God is telling you to slow down? How do you pick up the pace when you need to catch up with him again?