I’ve never been able to teach a dog anything. When I got my black Lab back in junior high, I had high expectations. I had seen hunting shows on TV where labs did amazing things and followed directions like they understood the English language. I would take my dog outside and try to teach her the simplest commands and she would just look at me with that dumb look on her face. I just couldn’t seem to make any progress. My teaching sessions always seemed to be a complete waste of time. I would become frustrated and even angry that my efforts were rewarded with mere panting and licking.
Curt Gowdy on The American Sportsman never had to put up with uncooperative dogs like mine. They would burst forth from the duck blind and follow every command as they retrieved the duck, overcoming all obstacles and gently returned it to Curt’s outstretched hand. My dog would just wag her tail and lick my face.
It turns out that it wasn’t the dog’s fault at all. It was my fault. I would try to teach the dog everything in one day at one time and if that didn’t work out I got frustrated and gave up. The dog eventually learned a lot of things just by being around me. She figured out what I was doing and how to follow quite a list of directions. We just spent a lot of time together and I didn’t worry about getting her to do tricks. I would correct her a time or two and forget about it until the next time. It was like magic, I could teach her things without even trying.
I’m not going to say that people are like dogs but they tend to be like dogs. They have a short attention span and they have other things they want to do besides listen to me. I have found this especially true of kids. They will openly ask if I am done talking because they have much more interesting things to do.
People listening to me drone on and on, even if I am imparting great knowledge (well, at least in my mind), will eventually tune out and think of other things while they nod their head in agreement with me. They have no idea what I am saying and thoughts of more important things like “The Walking Dead” float through their minds with my voice mumbling on in the background. Talking can only be of so much value. People love to talk but they hate to listen.
Sometimes it doesn’t take a judge, jury and Perry Mason to figure out that a person is doing something really stupid. They are doing something so stupid that you want to roll up a newspaper and shoo them away from what they are doing. Naturally, we have the desire to have a little talk with them. These little talks generally turn into long, drawn out talks, though, because the person in question is usually enjoying the heck out the stupid stuff they are doing. Once the talk passes out of “little talk” territory and into “long, drawn out talk” world, it is usually just a tiny step to becoming a big, huge relationship altering argument.
2 Timothy 2:23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.
People aren’t dogs. They do, however, respond to gentle instruction in small doses a lot better than huge dialogue that numbs their brains and starts a fight. The Bible says to stay out of arguments. I have to learn to gently instruct and allow God to do the work. He is the one that makes them come to their senses and get out of the stupid situation they are in, NOT ME! God makes them come to their senses, not my brilliant logic.
God, bring me to the place that I am gently instructing and leading. Help me put in quality time with people to do this. Help me trust you to complete the work. I pray today for those that are in the devil’s trap that they may be free. Amen.