What my Dog Taught Me about How God Talks to Us
The seven pound puppy we brought home from the Humane Society last August is now an almost seventy pound dog. The chore of training him to walk and obey other commands has fallen primarily on me as I am the one home with him throughout the day–a challenge as he grows stronger and I can no longer scoop him up and carry him where I want him to go.
After being pulled across icy streets like a sled dog minus sled when he wants to go see every dog he encounters, I finally bought a harness that fits across his chest and makes it difficult for him to pull. And he is learning to follow my commands. What I have learned in the process is: the less words the better.
If I try to explain to him why I have to be able to control him or I won’t be able to keep him, he just wags his whole body and jumps up on me like Dino welcoming Fred Flintstone home on the cartoon “The Flintstones.” I’m wasting my breath. The more I talk, the less he understands. A single “No!” works much better than, “Don’t drink that dirty water in the mud puddle. You’ll get sick.” A simple “Come!” works better than, “Come here boy, come on, Seamus, time to come in.” And “Stop” works better than, “Whoa, slow down, Seamus, stop pulling me.”
And I find myself wondering, is that how God talks to us humans? While there are some who claim God regularly speaks to them in long conversations, I am suspicious of such claims. Is it God talking or their own over-active imagination? I don’t trust anyone who claims they have a pipeline to God.
It seems to me that God’s language is probably as foreign to us as human language is to Seamus. Yet we try to put human words into God’s mouth because that’s all we have.
I have found that when God speaks to me, it is more often through a short phrase or single word, or just silence. I get a felt sense from the silence which I might try to put into words. When I get a word, the sign the word it is from God is its impact on me. Does it touch or surprise me in a way that I didn’t expect? That I never could have made up on my own?
These words aren’t frequent, yet are of more value than a thousand words. I can live for months on one word from God! My word for this month is “forgive,” given to me during the Good Friday service. What it means, I’ve yet to comprehend. There is much food for thought in this word.
When I complain that Seamus isn’t listening to me, it is usually not that he isn’t listening. He wants to please me. It’s more that I’m not communicating in a way he understands. My non-stop words are nonsense to his ears.
I wonder, if God is trying to talk to me, using a language I don’t understand, perhaps I need to listen in a different way. I need to clear my head of all of my human words lest they get in the way of God’s word.
And so, if I really want to be pleasing to my Master, I need to learn to listen in a way that allows me to understand God’s word when spoken to me.
How does God speak to you?