Isn’t it nice when someone is happy to see you? Every time I turn my key in the lock I know as soon as I open my front door, I will be greeted with tail-wagging excitement by our family dog, Tucker. I say “family” dog because he does love all of us, but my youngest daughter is definitely Tucker’s favorite person–he even sleeps in her bed when she is away at college. Thankfully, Tucker has a sweet personality and loves everyone he meets, but I think he can tell when someone is a “dog person” like my daughter.
My niece, another dog lover, offered to watch Tucker at her apartment once while we were away. The only caveat being that she had plans to visit a friend out of town for part of that time and would need to take Tucker along. We knew that wouldn’t be a problem because he is generally easy going and listens well. Her friend remarked that spending the weekend with Tucker really, really made her want to get a dog. To which my niece replied, “Sure, but they don’t come like this,” referring to the extensive amount of training my daughter had done with Tucker, especially as a puppy. This was beyond potty training and basic obedience class; it eventually included bringing him to agility classes and teaching him to follow commands even when he didn’t understand or know what the outcome would be. This type of training is important not just to have a well-behaved dog, but to keep him safe from temptations that will ultimately do more harm than good.
Some days I am like Tucker, not aware of what is best for me. He may want to stay out too long on a hot day or eat as much as we give him; I may want to skip that class at the gym I had planned or sleep in rather than get up to spend time with God before a busy day. This time with God is so important because I too need training. When it comes to athletic, academic or musical training, we know that practice makes us better. In fact, when we continue to practice even what we already know, it strengthens the connections in our brain even more. Spiritual training is similar as we strive to take each thought captive and turn it over to Christ so he can help us think correctly (2 Cor 10:5). If you’re wondering what I mean, here is a small example I am not proud of but will share anyway. When my kids were younger, I encouraged them to eat foods I knew were good for them and as such, healthy eating was on my mind as I shopped for groceries. The problem was I began to notice what was in other shopper’s carts and make a judgement. He doesn’t look like he needs more soda. Her kid definitely doesn’t need more sugar. Really, that many frozen dinners? There came a point when I realized what I was doing and asked the Lord to help me do better. I mean, seriously, aren’t we all just doing the best we can? I began to notice the thoughts as soon as they came into my head, giving me the opportunity to send up a quick prayer for forgiveness. The more I practiced, the less my snap judgements occurred. So you see? Training.
In more recent years, with God’s help, I have been working on noticing PEOPLE when I am going about my daily tasks and He recently provided me with an awesome opportunity. While shopping at a discount grocery store, I saw that the woman with two young children in front of me in line was short on money and sorting through her groceries with the clerk to decide which of the items she would buy. I’m sure she felt embarrassed so I directed my attention elsewhere and thought about the best way to help her. Since we were at a discount store, once you pay for your groceries, you bring your cart to a counter where you bag up your items. Perfect! While she was doing that, I was able to add the groceries she left behind to my order and give them to her. And the best part of all was that I couldn’t even tell you what those groceries were!
As I climbed in my car to head home, I thought about and prayed for this sweet mama. Thank you, Jesus for continuing to train me as I spend time talking to you in prayer and reading the Bible. I still have a long way to go but I am making progress. And when I returned home with my groceries that day, I opened the front door to be greeted once again by my favorite 4-legged, tail-wagging pup.
1 Timothy 4:8
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
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