The Freedom Paradox
The ways of the Kingdom of Heaven appear completely upside down when compared to the ways of earth. In Heaven, the least is the greatest, you give away in order to receive, you surrender in order to achieve victory....and limitations bring freedom.
When I get called for behavioral work with a dog it almost always boils down to a well-intentioned pet parent who has failed to set (and enforce) specific boundaries and limitations for their fur baby. I get it. No one wants to be the bad guy and in our society we often view boundaries and limitations as something unpleasant or unloving.
Most people just want a happy, lovable dog to be a source of joy and relaxation in their lives. But somehow lots of pet parents end up with a hyper active, obsessive or territorial dog who rules the house, causes chaos when company arrives at the door and is impossible to take on outings with the family.
Dogs communicate differently than we do. Dogs are pack animals. They feel most secure when they are part of a pack with a strong pack leader. The pack leader sets the expectations of what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior (boundaries and limitations) and everyone abides by it. Every dog in the pack abides by it because they know this will keep them safe, well-fed and connected to the rest of the pack, fulfilling their need for socialization. They have less stress, less worry and more community than if they were on their own in the woods trying to figure life out. This provides a dog's brain with safety, comfort and stability.
Usually, after I explain some of these basics to the pet parent they see the value in establishing boundaries and limitations. Once everyone is on the same page it is only a matter of time, loving-patience and diligence before their dog is transformed into the fur baby of their dreams.
What happened? A few clear, well-enforced boundaries and limitations have brought harmony and peace to the home. This creates greater freedom for the family to enjoy their dog, have more guests over and take Fido on more outings than they ever could before.
It's the same with us in our walk with God.
Just like dogs communicate differently than humans, Heaven operates differently than earth. And just like dogs experience a better quality of life when their human pack leader establishes boundaries and limitations, we humans live a more joyful, fulfilled and victorious life when we learn the boundaries and limitations of our "Pack Leader".
Every dog in the pack abides by the boundaries and limitations set by the pack leader because they know this will keep them safe, well-fed and connected to the rest of the pack, fulfilling their need for socialization. They have less stress, less worry and more community than if they were on their own in the woods trying to figure life out. This provides a dog's brain with safety, comfort and stability. It's like that with humans and God too.
Instead of "no jumping", "no barking", "no biting", "no digging"....
I am told:
- Do not worry. But my earthly mind says: Really? But if I worry about things I am being a responsible adult, aren't I? I can anticipate all the problems and solve them ahead of time. Nope. Not according to Heaven. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7
- Do not fear. But my earthly mind says: Are you sure, God? I mean, fear can protect us from disaster, right? Not really. Actually God wants me to look to Him for protection, trusting that He has my back. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33
- Do not plan excessively or compulsively. But my earthly minds says: Whoa. Wait a minute. Not planning is just plain foolish and lazy. Nope. Wrong again. Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will we will live and do this or that." ~ James 4:13-15
- Do not chase after material things. But my earthly mind says: But I need certain things for my survival down here. I have to focus on those first to make sure my needs and the needs of my loved one are met, right? Actually, that's not how provision from Heaven works. God wants me to rely on Him for my provision, not myself. So I tell you do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?"...or "What shall we wear?"...your Heavenly Father knows that you need [these things]. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. ~ Matthew 6:31-33
- Do not do anything by yourself. But my earthly mind says: Now that can't be right. God gave us a brain and talents. I should be use them to be independent and take care of myself. Yes, He gave them to me but life will turn out very differently depending on whether I use my faculties to serve my own purposes or to serve His. Even Jesus didn't speak a single word without knowing that it was what His Father wanted. By myself I [Jesus] can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me. ~ John 5:30
- Do not worship other gods including people or material objects. But my earthly mind says: I totally agree. I would never worship another person or an object. But I do need to make sure I have favor with my boss, this potential client and my future sister-in-law. Nope. No I don't. I don't have to make sure of anything. God gives me favor with whomever He wants me to have favor. When I try to curry favor on my own it is actually manipulation. Sit right with God and God will ensure that I sit right with the people He places in my path. Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. ~ Galatians 1:10
Unlocking the Paradox
See a pattern here? God is trying to show us that all the things we think make us responsible, successful, functioning adults here on earth are what actually bind us in chains of misery, stress, illness, premature death, etc.
Worry is not being responsible. It is a slavery. And it means we are concerning ourselves with details of life that are above our pay-grade.
Intense, detailed planning does not guarantee us control over our lives and a smooth trajectory to success; surrendering control to God's plan for every area of our lives.
Learning to live within the confines and limitations of the 24 hours that is TODAY actually frees me to enjoy my moments more: moments with Angel, moments in nature, moments with God that I would have otherwise missed out on because my mind was distracted by plans for tomorrow, next week or something I need to accomplish before I turn 65.
And guess what, friends. Every day is TODAY. Each morning when we wake up we have the freedom to choose whose rules, boundaries and limitations we live by: earth or Heaven.
Every day we have the freedom to choose to bring a little more of Heaven into our daily lives here on earth.
Each morning when we wake up we have the freedom to choose whose rules, boundaries and limitations we live by: earth or Heaven. Every day we have the freedom to choose to bring a little more of Heaven into our daily lives here on earth.
Love and puppy kisses,
Angel's Mom (a.ka. Susan)
P.S. If you are interested in learning about the origin of The AngelFood Diaries, read here.