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Our puppy Brittany had surgery recently.  This little 6 month old dog is supposed to wear a cone around her neck for 14 days and not do any jumping, stretching, and playing.

I don’t think she is understanding the instructions from the doctor.

It doesn’t matter how many times I tell her not to jump, not to run, not to stretch, and not to play…she doesn’t listen.

I’m starting to think my dog doesn’t speak the same language as me.

But you know…it makes sense she wouldn’t understand me or the doctor…

She is a dog.  The yoga pose, downward dog, is literally named after what she does naturally when she’s been sitting for awhile.  She has no idea that the things she wants to do constantly could cause her real problems, hurt, and pain.

So, we put this ridiculous plastic cone around her neck and try to get her to not jump, not stretch, and not play.

I feel like we are losing this battle.

To at least try and make the whole thing more manageable for her…and us…we got her a slightly different protector so she can’t get to her stitches.  It looks like a giant sprinkled donut is around her neck.

It is certainly cuter than the cone and it is essentially one of those travel pillows you wear on flights.

It is also quite humorous because we are normally taking her on walks, playing rambunctiously with her, having “playdates” with her “boyfriend” dog next door.

And yet, in this time, we are telling her not to do any of these things.

It seems to make no sense to her.  She does not understand.

As we are trying to guide her, protect her, make things work for her, and do what is best for her, she does not get it…and it is in this that I am reminded that this might be what it feels like for God.

There is this desire to see us do well.

There is a call to live in a certain way.

There is a hope not to have us do certain things or head down certain paths, because they will lead to more hurt and pain.

So God guides us, protects us, sacrifices for us, so we will thrive…and yet over and over again we do what we are not supposed to do.

We do what hurts us.

We do what damages us.

We do what leads us towards more pain and complications.

Its almost like we are not speaking the same language as God.

So how do we navigate this?

In the early gatherings of people who were trying to follow Jesus, a guy named Paul was writing to them to help them in this journey.  So, he writes a letter to this group of Christians in Rome to help them know that he himself struggles with doing what he is supposed to do.  Not that his actions save him, but that depending on how he lives and acts, it will bring repercussions to his life.  He says famously,

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 

It’s like he knows that something is not good…and yet he still does it.

He knows what he should do…and yet he does not do it.

I think we are the same.  The more we follow after Jesus, the more we understand who God is and what he is calling us towards, we end up still doing stuff we know is not good.  And we know certain things are good and we just don’t do them.

It seems to make no sense to us.  We do not understand.

You can almost imagine God thinking about putting a cone or inflatable donut on our lives.

But here is the deal.

For Paul and for you and for me, when we delight in who God is, when we dwell upon Jesus and what he’s done, when we surrender our life, our will, our desires and are led by the Holy Spirit, I believe the struggle that is waging war in our heart and mind can be won.

Pauls asks the question,

Who will deliver me from this body of death? 

Then he answers his own question,

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Some of the very next few things that Paul writes are what we need to cling to,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 

A life that is trying to manage our destructive actions ends up becoming a life of sin management.

But a life that recognizes that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, is a life that has been set free.

The temptation to do what destroys us or hurts us or binds us becomes less desirable and when we inevitably fall short, there is grace to pick us back up again.

Sometimes the things we want aren’t actually good or helpful for what we ultimately desire.

But if we reconsider what we truly desire, those things we thought we wanted start to lose their appeal.

Let us be people who dwell upon Jesus, desire a life that has meaning and purpose, and are willing to let go of the things that may not matter in the end and cling tightly to what truly does.

My dog may not fully understand why we are protecting her, but that doesn’t mean we quit.

We may not fully understand why God is calling us to live in a certain way, but he isn’t going to quit, and neither should we.

Pray for understanding and seek the one who gives it.

I hope you will join us on Sunday as we continue to follow after our God.

We will have worship like normal at 10am and we’ll also have our monthly communion at 9am.  It’s just a short communion service, about 15 minutes and then it’s a great time to visit with others, help us set up, or just secure your parking and seating before the 10am service.

See you on Sunday.