All puppies love to play, and ours was no exception. I suppose at almost two years of age his puppyhood was really behind him, but Zion didn’t seem to know that. Anytime any of us sat down in a chair - anywhere - inside the house or out, he invaded our space with his smiling face, a slobbery ball clenched tightly between his teeth, begging us to throw it for him. We'd have been happy to do what he asked… if he'd just let go of the ball. That he was not willing to do. In his mind the best part of the game was having you try to pry it loose from his jaws, risking the health of your fingers in the process as he fought you every wet and disgusting inch of the way.
It was a game my husband, Jim, was no longer willing to play. He'd gladly throw the ball, but he began to insist that the dog drop it out of his mouth first. Every time Zion brought him the ball from that point on, Jim gently but firmly instructed him to put it down. He refused to get involved in the game to a larger degree until the dog cooperated and dropped it down in front of him, often repeating his command with increasing volume and intensity until Zion obeyed. After that he had to add the further instruction to also leave it down, because when he did lay it down he wanted to snatch it back up again, just seconds before our extended hands could reach it.
Zion knew what he was supposed to do, he just wanted to play the game his way. He had a tendency to take his toy and go off in a corner to sulk like a frustrated child, but he learned that if he wanted Jim to participate at all, he had to play by his master's rules.
The lesson was for his own good. Few people are willing to stick their hand in a dog's wet mouth to remove a slippery ball that the animal obviously wants to keep. Thus his list of prospective playmates was small. Should he learn a new way to play the game, he'd have many more people to play with and his life would be happier as a result. For that reason I tried to support my husband in his training efforts, reinforcing the lessons by likewise limiting my willingness to play to those times when the dog did what he was supposed to do.
But it was hard. I found it hard to resist such a bundle of playful energy when he stood before me, tail wagging, his puppy heart visible in his eyes. But I knew I'd only make things more difficult for him in the long run, prolonging the training sessions and subjecting him to more open rebuke down the road if I gave in. My indulgence confused the dog and confounded my husband's training efforts. For his own good I had to be consistent in my actions.
We all too often play the same game with God. It's not our intention, of course. When we bring our burdens to Him we are rarely in a lighthearted or playful mood. But our actions reflect our immaturity in much the same way that my dog's puppy nature was revealed by his. We bring our problems to God and yet have a hard time releasing them to Him. It's almost as if we expect God to pry them loose from our tightly clenched hold. When we do finally respond to His request to lay them down, we have a tendency to snatch them up again before He can pick them up and throw them into the "Sea of Forgetfulness" where they belong. He longs to put them away forever, but we don't allow that to happen. Like my dog, who watched carefully where a thrown ball landed before racing off to retrieve it, we, too, watch where God discards our refuse only to go get it once more and bring it back to Him repeatedly to deal with again.
It's not just the bad things in our lives that we need to lay down, however. Releasing our hold on good things like our finances, our gifts and abilities, laying them down for God to pick up and use as He desires can also open the door to wonderful new experiences in Him. We have to resist the urge to pick them up again ourselves, to use as we think best. Instead they must be totally surrendered to Him and His purposes, whatever they may be.
Too often we're guilty of indulging each other, allowing our friends to bring to us what they should've left at the altar, prying for details and allowing them to chew on situations awhile that were better left to lay where they'd been dropped. In doing so we hinder God's attempts to help them reach spiritual maturity by living life God's way. If we truly love them, we'll desire for them the greater blessings that are to be found in obedience. "Put it down and leave it down" is advice that leads to a whole new ball game, not just for the dogs in God's animal kingdom, but also in Kingdom living for His kids.
"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."