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Why Every Christian Should Walk a Dog

So often I feel like it’s my job to create outcomes in my life. I want to see certain results – whether it’s success in my work, happiness in my family, or deeper connection with the people around me. I often burden myself with the idea that I should be in control of how things turn out.

The terrifying and liberating reality, though, is that my only choice is how to respond to the Spirit’s grace on a moment-by-moment basis. God is the one making the connections, opening up possibilities. I’m not the decider, but I am invited to be a faithful responder. It’s just a matter of staying awake.

Take, for example, a recent walk I took with our dog. Austin was feeling the call of the wild, and I was looking forward to a quiet walk through our neighborhood. But as I headed out, I noticed a man walking down the alley, headed my way. He was a neighbor from down the street who I’d never spoken to, but today he clearly wanted to connect.

I had a decision to make: I could be polite but keep walking, or I could change my plans.

Instead of taking the solitary walk I had envisioned when I stepped out the door, I came alongside my neighbor and accompanied him on the way to the corner store. We didn’t talk about anything profound – the dog, mostly – but we made a connection. We know each other’s names now.

After leaving my new friend at the corner store, I looped back around the block. The dog and I ended up playing fetch in our yard. Austin was having a great time, running up and down the lawn, growling and spinning playfully. That’s when I heard laughter from the group home across the street. One of the nurses who works there was out on the front porch, watching us play.

At first, I stayed in our yard, yelling back and forth with the nurse. But was soon obvious that our conversation was more than a courteous wave across the fence. Once again, I had a choice to make: Would I respond to the opportunity for connection that God was putting in front of me? Austin and I crossed the street and spent some time talking with our neighbor on her porch.

I didn’t create either of the opportunities that afternoon. I didn’t leave the house planning to connect with my neighbors. In fact, I was surprised to find that they were reaching out to me! But I had a choice as to how I would respond. I could take the time, make myself available, and go deeper. Or I could be pleasant and courteous… and keep walking.

Have you been presented with opportunities and choices like this lately? What decisions did you make? In the comments below, I invite you to share about your own experience of these kinds of holy openings.

Where in your life do you experience opportunities to connect with others in unexpected ways? How do you practice awareness and readiness to embrace these openings as they emerge?

  • Debra Hope

    Maybe I’m losing it in my old age, but walking my dog is not, in my senior opinion, a demand of Christ, it’s just something I do. I really wonder about why everything has to be related to what we believe (“Why Every Christian Should Walk a Dog” – really?) Can’t things like walking your best friend in the non-human world just be fun? Since when have we become so tied to rules and demands and outlines of accepted “Christian” behavior? Last night, Tiger heard the neighbor’s car door slam, and went barreling down the street, like a bat out of he** to greet Brett. I walked to where Tiger was licking and jumping and running between Brett’s legs, tail and butt wagging, and had a pleasant catch up conversation with my neighbor. Bottom line, if we simply “do” what we say we “believe”, it really makes life so much easier. As for “connecting,” I’ve found an amazingly simple way – make eye contact in Wal-Mart (or whatever big box store you frequent). It’s almost unbelievable what people will tell you if they sense a listening ear, a moment to talk. And last but not least, my husband and I long ago quit giving money to any organized begger, churches included. There are many people in our circle of acquaintances who are going through hard times. We give when we see need and don’t have to worry about 75% of our gift going to some overpaid CEO or administrator. 100% goes directly to the need and it’s a lot of fun! Our latest? A couple hundred to our favorite waitress at Mel’s to help with Christmas for her four kids. We tell people we’re not “loaning,” we’re giving. If they persist, we ask them to pass it on to others when they are able and see need. So much easier than rules and demands and instructions and all the good Mennonite/Catholic guilt that comes with that stance.

    • Hey, there, Debra. Thanks for commenting.

      The title of this post is definitely tongue-in-cheek! For me, though, my dog has definitely been helpful in making connections that I might not have made otherwise, especially here in my neighborhood.

      Thanks for sharing some of the ways that you’re connecting!