Gentle Leader

Crazy Puppy would most prefer to run free. In far second place would be the confines of our backyard. There, as neighborhood folk know, he reigns as Mighty Hunter of Squirrels, Grand Chaser of Mice, and He-Who-Barks-At-Strange-Automobiles. Not that he’s ever exactly succeeded in catching any of the above. Well, once he caught a bird…but it was already dead. So that doesn’t *really* count, at least in my opinion.

Crazy Puppy also loves to go for walks. However, he must first submit to the indignity of his leash, and a little contraption called a “gentle leader.” This gizmo straps around his muzzle in a way that puts pressure on key spots if he pulls too far in any direction away from the leash. It is not supposed to hurt per se, it still allows him full use of his mouth (watch out, squirrels!), but it helps keep him sensitive to the leading of the Leash Holder.

He hates the thing, but he loves the walks. And so our routine looks like this:

“Hey Crazy Puppy, wanna go for a walk?”

“YES YES YES!” (Tail wagging, mad dash for the place where the leash is hanging).

“Okay then, but you first need to SIT so I can get this strapped onto you,” I say.

“Uh, oh boy, this is a hard one. Lemme think, lemme think, lemme think. Sorry Lisa, no can do…” (Yes, one can actually see the small wheel turning in his head).

Then comes the mini stare down. Truth is, I can’t put the strap onto his muzzle if he doesn’t allow me. I’m not going to force it on him. But without the “gentle leader” our walks would be disastrous. He could run off and get lost. He could get injured in a fight with the pit bull two blocks over. I wouldn’t be able to prevent him from crossing the street when a car is coming. His strength and stubbornly self-directed whims (translation: “squirrels”) would simply be overpowering.

“SIT,” I repeat.

And with body quivering, Crazy Puppy lowers his head. And. Sits. The strap quickly goes on, and out of the house we go, his tail wagging excitedly for the joy of the walk yet to come.

How often I see myself in this repeated scenario. I long for the Joy That Awaits, but I want to taste it without constraints. I want to insist on freedom on my own terms, to continue to indulge my own stubborn impulses.

And then I hear that quiet voice beckoning:

“Come to me, all who are exhausted, and I will give you life.
I am gentle and humble. In me your soul will find rest.
My yoke is easy, my burden is light…”

An open and endless invitation to the fullness of life. The self-proclaimed Gentle Leader stands waiting with a promise almost too good to be true. He offers to protect us from ourselves, to take us where we would not be able to go on our own. But He will not force the constraint. That part, the willingness to be fine-tuned to His leading, is up to us.

And so, though I repeatedly fight and argue and resist, the invitation remains a daily promise. And on the other side of submission, life and joy await.

Ever grateful for the patient and loving hands of the ultimate Gentle Leader,