by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca), Kingston, Ontario, October 2006
A police dog can track and follow a criminal through dense bush. Others can smell out explosives in a piece of luggage. Many farms have a guard dog. A Red Setter can swim out to a duck that has been shot down , and bring it back to the hunter. St. Bernards would take a flask of brandy out to a mountain climber freezing high up in the Alps. But the only function of a walking dog is to go out for walks.
The rest of the day the animal sleeps and waits for his master. When the leash is brought out the walking dog jumps up with excitement, and he has a blissful half hour enjoying the smells of the neighborhood.
I like patting the dogs that come running to greet me, but the cost of owning one is more than I am willing to pay. First you buy the animal, then there are the injections and other visits to the vet. There is bathing and grooming. Who wants to take a dirty smelly dog out for a walk? Forget going on a trip to Europe or the Caribbean unless you are prepared to put your pet into a kennel which he hates. And then there is the problem of deciding what to do when the dog can’t walk any more. Meanwhile every walk demands the ultimate sacrifice of having to stoop, scoop, and take home the mess from a neighbor’s lawn.
But walking dog owners cannot imagine life without one. Ask them why, and companionship seems to be the main reason. They never have to walk alone. The dog can’t talk with ordinary words, but he can make his feelings felt. Just being with you on the walk is all he asks for.
But what has that to do with theology? Surely God is not lonely? The answer seems paradoxical. Since I have been recovering from a stroke I have enjoyed the company of friends who are willing to walk with me. But I also walk alone. I have discovered that God actually enjoys my company.
He likes it when I compliment him for inventing the varieties of flowers in the little gardens along the way. I also talk to him about the people I see. "That woman seems very unhappy." "Look at that couple with three lovely kids." There is time to discuss my concerns, the unfinished business, the longings of my heart. He never tells me to shut up. In fact, the more I chatter with him, the sweeter the walk. But sometimes we both enjoy the silence of just walking together.
A similar freedom to be alone with the Lord can be obtained in other ways : solitary confinement in a foreign jail, this summer I was flattened in hospital with a stroke, Brother Lawrence talked to the Lord as he did the dishes in the monastery. But walking alone with my Master is easier and much more enjoyable.
So if you call me God’s walking dog, I wouldn’t be offended. And I have a feeling that the Lord prefers me walking with him than all he business I used to think was important.