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?