Make Me Like My Dog, God.
I’ve been attempting to write a talk this week on the topic of devotion. The minutes would tick by as I sat at my desk waiting for inspiration.. As I looked at the floor, a few stray black hairs would float off of Grizzly as he wagged his tail, and I realized that whatever devotion was, it was embodied by a loyal dog. If you’ve got one, you know what I mean.
The words finally came as a prayer:
Make me like my dog, God.
Make my ears attentive.
Make my gaze steady.
Make me steadfast in following You.
Make me loyal to your people, your kingdom.
Make me patient for your movement.
Make me devoted to your will and your pleasure.
Make me long to be in your presence.
Make me look to you for my daily provision.
May I trust you the way Grizzly trust me.
Please make me like my dog, God.
Why was the topic of devotion so difficult to articulate? Why was I wrestling with it for several days?
Devotion is my side of the relationship to God. I am trying to describe my response to the Almighty Love of the Universe. To approach that subject honestly is humbling and convicting, and I’m putting it lightly. You can’t write about devotion without self-examination.
The temptation that floats through my mind as I ponder this is to write about spiritual practices. I have them. I do them. I believe in them. They work. This idea looks so legitimate that I write a few pages before I realize it’s a dead -end. To equate my spiritual practices with devotion itself is to say that hitting a thousand forehands off a ball machine is to be a tennis player. The drill is not the game itself or the person playing. I’ve written often about spiritual practices, so much that I have a whole category on this blog for them. I’m an advocate for practice and I’d be lost without it.
Equating practice for devotion is swapping religion for relationship. We are creatures of habit and habits are often mindless by design. Do I need to be 100% focused on brushing my teeth or sweeping or can that be a space where my mind is free to wander elsewhere? Even spiritual practice can be like that - going through the motions. It can so easily become religion. That is not devotion. Devotion is a matter of the heart. It’s a response word. Devotion is how I respond to love. I think of myself as a devoted wife - that is a response to my husband’s steadfast love for many years. What I find when I try to write about my own devotion to God is I face my lack of it. A verse from John Newton’s hymn, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” comes to mind…
Weak is the effort of my heart
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought.
“Weak is the effort” feels about right. My heart doesn’t feel devoted twenty-four hours a day, sometimes not even one hour. So how do I change that? Newton’s words suggest seeing God as He is will change my heart. I contemplate that phrase- do I truly see God as He is? If I’m honest, I see Him through the lens of my own life, my own small experience - culture, place and time. I read the Scripture expecting it to say what I have always been taught it says, though hundreds of denominations suggests more than one way of reading it by sincere people.
One thing we probably all agree on this that God is initiating all the time and God is not the one who hides. The oldest story in the Bible shows us who does the hiding in the relationship. So if that is true, that God is always seeking me in relationship, then my ‘cold thoughts’ have to do with me. I cannot see, hear, taste, smell touch and perceive that God is good and God is love.
What gets in the way of seeing and hearing and tasting? How about these four for starters?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll tackle each of those in a blog post. In the meantime, I’ll keep praying, “God, Make Me Like My Dog” while I have a pair of big black, velvety ears listening my every move.