When we reach the trail, we have a decision to make: right or left. We usually turn left because the trail connects to the other end of the main road, providing us with a two-mile circular loop. Circles are good with Mitch because once he's going, he doesn't want to stop, and he's smart enough to know that turning around means eventually stopping. So, the loop is our favorite.
When I walk alone, I turn to the right and typically follow the trail for about two miles, then turn around and come back. It's a pleasant and peaceful walk that I enjoy immensely. The only part I don't like is the part where I have to cross the very busy highway. But overall, it's worth it!
Something got into me this morning, and I decided to take Mitch to the right. I knew we'd have to be very careful at the highway crossing because Mitch was not familiar with this type of crossing. On our normal trail, we cross the highway at a stoplight, which means we have a crosswalk signal. Mitch has learned and now understands that he must wait for me to tell him to go, and then he can hurry his way across. And he does hurry! I think the cars intimidate him, which is probably a good thing. But the crossing we faced this morning was not at a stoplight. There were no signals. Instead, there's a four-lane highway with a small median in the center. On a good day, you might be able to get all the way across the road without stopping in the median, but not usually.
When we reached the road, I reeled Mitch in so that he had very little range in his leash. I wanted to keep him close so he didn't dart out. As I expected, he waited patiently at the edge of the road until I told him he could go. As we made our way across the first two lanes of highway, I kept his leash reined in. As we reached the median, I pulled tight and told him to stop. He only pulled harder, determined to get across the street. What he didn't know is that there was traffic coming, and we weren't going to make it to the other side before the traffic arrived. We needed to wait, but he didn't understand that. His danger alarm was going off, and he was responding by doing his best to pull us both out of harm's way.
The line of traffic was long, and Mitch became increasingly impatient and pulled even harder. I tried to calm him. I attempted to comfort him. But my words were having no effect. Finally, the traffic cleared, and I gave him some slack on the leash. He ran across the last two lanes of highway and then promptly resumed his normal pace (which isn't much short of a run if I let him have his way). As we walked, I tried once again to comfort and reassure him. I could tell he was out of sorts. I found myself saying, "You just have to trust Mommy and let me guide you. I'll get us safely across, but you must listen to my directions." The words weren't even completely out of my mouth before their message hit home.
How many times do I, like Mitch, try to find my own way through? How many times have I plowed ahead in my impatience, frustration or fear? How many times have I ignored the comforting and guiding voice of my Master because I thought I knew better? How many times has God looked down at me and said, "Dana, you just have to trust your Father and let me guide you. I'll get you safely across, but you must listen to my directions"?
By the time we crossed the street on our way back, Mitch had calmed down and understood better what to expect from this particular intersection. He didn't pull. He didn't fight. He didn't try to have his own way. He waited. He listened. And he followed my directions. I pray that I will soon learn to do the same with my Master.