It was a lush summery day, some forty years ago. The sun sparkled and a gentle breeze blew, causing the tall grass to bend and sway in a field close to Washington Street, near the home of my grandparents. My uncle had coaxed my father, brother, and me to observe his dog in action.
She’s an attack dog, he boasted. I glanced up at my father and could tell by his narrowed squint that he detected exaggeration.
My uncle was never known for follow-through, and in fact, quit things with alarming regularity. One time, while in high school, he secured a lengthy newspaper delivery route for summer employment. After a few days of hard work, and a route far longer than he preferred, he quit delivering without telling a soul. One evening that week, during dinner, my grandfather received a phone call: a manager reporting that a string of customers were beyond livid, wondering where on earth were their daily papers? As it happened, my uncle had dutifully picked up his delivery stack each morning, bicycled down to the local bridge, and dumped the papers into the rush of river, before pedaling home to munch on cereal and watch television.
He held many jobs, for short periods of time, before either quitting or being fired, which must have been a difficult pill for my respectable grandfather to swallow.
Another high school catastrophe occurred when my salesman-grandfather noticed that a score of his finest sample pens had gone missing. He emptied filing cabinets and drawers, before discovering the cold truth: his son, my uncle, had been peddling the pens at school, selling them for quick cash, which obviously suited him far better than holding any job that required actual labor.
So, by the time we stood in the field that day, I had heard all of the stories, and was inclined to believe not a word that my uncle said. Attack dog? Whatever.
My uncle had purchased this expensive purebred puppy two years prior: a female German Shephard named Rontu. She had grown from a frolicking and chunky bundle of energy into a sleek, dark, and still creature. By nature, I was comfortable around all dogs, never one to scare. This lack of fear bothered my parents who regularly warned me: Not every dog is safe or friendly, Kristin.
Rontu was the very first dog that I did not wholeheartedly embrace; there was something different about her. An intensity, a silence. I chose to keep some distance.
They made an odd pair: my uncle, swaggering, unfocused, with little forethought to any venture, and his dog: alert, highly focused, yet aloof; detached from anything other than her master.
Are you guys ready? My uncle grinned. Stand back and watch what she can do.
He began with the basics, which were actually impressive, considering the source. Sit. Stay. Down. Heel. Come. Rontu’s obedience was as swift as his commands. There was no cajoling, no second reminders. He was basking in this showing off, feeling the power of his words coming to fruition in front of this slim audience of three. Even at the age of nine I sort of felt sorry for him; embarrassed by his need to be king, if only for an afternoon.
We enjoyed watching the show, though. I was shocked that this particular uncle had taken the time to consistently attend so many classes with his dog. (Later on, I found out that he lived in a terrible section of the city, and he owed people money. Cash that he did not have. He had been beaten within an inch of his life, wailed my grandmother, and in order to preserve his existence, trained Rontu as a form of protection. It worked.)
After twenty minutes or so, my father thanked him, and suggested we head back to my grandparents’ house. But my uncle, reveling in such glory, had one more trick.
It’s the best one, he added. He mumbled something to my father, who shook his head.
But my uncle was on a roll and issued the command anyway.
Rontu, he said. Her brown eyes gazed directly at his face. He pointed to a man on the far side of the field, walking, minding his own business on this lustrous summer’s day.
And she took off, without sound, but with a blazing speed and surety. A dangerous blur flying in a direct line to this perfect stranger. She was gaining on him.
Call her off! my father hollered.
My uncle only laughed. Isn’t this cool? She will do whatever I say!
At this point, my heart was thudding in my throat, my feet glued to the earth. Rontu was catching up to this helpless victim who was now high-tailing it, bracing for an imminent attack.
And then, within yards, my uncle called only two words: Rontu, out!
She slowed immediately, curving and beautifully turning back to her master, loping in relaxed fashion; completely ignoring her former prey. She arrived at my uncle’s feet, panting.
Good girl. He patted her head and her eyes closed as she plopped down submissively at his feet.
I learned later that if he had not summoned her, she would have bitten the man first on his forearm, dragging him down before fastening her razor sharp grip upon his throat, puncturing the jugular.
Is there anything as disturbing as a child who is encouraged to disobey? Children trained for disobedience?
Stewart, come here. Little Stewart crosses his arms and locks his legs. Stewart, I am going to count to three. One…Two…Thr-
And Stewart ambles half-heartedly to his parents, who then praise him for disobeying the first time.
To delay is to disobey.
God’s word is simple to understand, and in our sinful bent towards defiance and stubbornness, often difficult to obey.
The biblical structure of the home and the church is now being called into question by professing believers: Did God really call men to lovingly shepherd their families and their churches? Is marriage really between one man and one woman? Do parents really have authority over their young children? I hear people questioning these clarities of Scripture, and I tremble, reminded of Eve, heeding the voice of Satan, rather than the voice of God. Did God really mean to abstain from this one luscious tree? Why that makes no sense! Partake, and you will be like God, full of knowledge.
She believed herself to be wiser than her Creator.
Her choice of blatant disobedience, coupled with Adam’s floundering silence and lack of backbone led to death. The consequences resulted in ruin for the ages.
A swift glance at biblical disobedience beyond the Garden of Eden is also alarming: Cain’s rage and eventual murder of his own brother, Noah’s neighbors swept to eternal damnation by flood, Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt, and the Jewish nation wandering for four decades as punishment for their rebellion. There are always steep consequences for disobedience.
The commonality of origin is clear: an ongoing rebellious reliance upon human wisdom rather than God’s instruction.
There is strength in obedience; in swift godly submission. Think of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God’s instruction, Mary’s response of Yes, Lord, May it be to me as you have said, and Jesus’ humble submission to God the Father, as he hung on the cross. Each one of these acts of prompt, sacrificial obedience produced blessings for the ages.
It is time, Christ-followers, to become like Rontu: singular in focus, with our aim to hear and obey only the voice of our God, our Master. Leave all consequences for such obedience in his hands. Hands that created the universe out of nothing; hands that are holding the world even now. Eternity is coming, and eternity is forever. Do not delay.
Isaiah 5:20-21: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!