In my sermon on Sunday, I mentioned that Jesus uses two very important words in his commandments to the disciples: “Come” and “Go.” This reminded me of a story I read in my daily devotional written by Diana Allor in Michigan, USA, concerning her dog Oliver:
“When I walk our dog Oliver at the park off-leash, he loves to run ahead, sniffing the trees and chasing the squirrels. Allowing him the liberty to enjoy the park on his own makes me happy. However, I keep a lookout for other dog-walkers. When I see one in the distance, I call Oliver back to me to put him on his leash until we are alone again. I am always struck by Oliver’s quick and happy obedience when I call him back. He knows his freedom is going to be curtailed; yet he still comes eagerly to my feet. Only because I know I can count on his quick obedience am I able to allow him off-leash at all. In Oliver’s obedience I see a lesson for my relationship to my heavenly Father. Just as my commands seem to limit Oliver’s freedom, so God’s commands sometimes feel restrictive. And yet, God’s commands are for my good. Through them, I will be able to fully enjoy the life God has given me. Still, I have to ask myself: ‘Am I as quick and cheerful in my obedience to God as Oliver is to me? Or when God calls me to obedience, do I delay and sulk at having to be put on a leash?’ I hope I can match Oliver’s enthusiasm when God gives me a command.”
This story makes me think that maybe, with COVID-19, humanity has been put on a leash? We’ve been given free rein to run in our park (the world) and perhaps God is reining us in? Calling us to God’s side? The pandemic is certainly teaching us much – we are forced in isolation, but at home with our families. Our “outside” working jobs are now positioned at home. We are quieted, restricted, more reflective, pondering priorities, and discerning these life changes. In this “come” and “go” of life, there are commandments concerning our safety and well-being. Is God restricting our freedom right now to teach us in some way?
Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest…take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” Matthew 11: 28, 29. Taking the yoke of Jesus upon ourselves means to take his teaching and learn from it. As we continue with the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s pay attention to Jesus calling us and giving us direction. Let’s listen to him commanding “come” or “go.” In faith, he will direct us. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” John 10: 27.
And in closing, consider God’s promise: “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore,” Psalm 121: 8.