We didn’t know there was a gap in our hedge.
Our previous labrador, Rudi, have never discovered it. But three days after we took ownership of a six-month-old puppy named Buddy, he found it.
It was an unusually warm spring morning and having let Buddy out into the garden, we were enjoying coffee in our pyjamas.
The doorbell rang and it was our lovely next door neighbour with Buddy in her arms. While we had been relaxing, Buddy had escaped next door, gone in through her back door that was open, up the stairs and right into our neighbour’s bed! I was absolutely mortified! I still blush when I think about it.
Unfortunately, it was so much fun that Buddy decided he would regularly visit his new friend and because our boundary is a hedge instead of a fence, every time we fixed one gap, he would find another.
In the end, there was only one solution, a very strong tether. Every time Buddy was playing unaccompanied, we would tie him to a tree so he couldn’t escape.
Tethering is a very effective solution for wandering.
In one of my favourite hymns, we find these words,
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Every time I sing that song, I think how painfully true it is of me. Like a natural reflex, I suffer from an innate predisposition to wandering.
My thoughts wander. My desires wander. My schedule and my plans wander.
My minutes and hours and days wander regularly from my Heavenly Father to pretty much anything else.
It frustrates and embarrasses me.
Why can I remember movies and magazine articles but not Sunday’s sermon?
How on earth do I get to the end of the day without making time for Jesus but I have never, ever forgotten to eat or get dressed or check Facebook?
Why is it so hard to focus when I am reading God’s Word or praying?
These lyrics make an interesting suggestion, though. They suggest that God’s goodness is our fetter. A fetter is a chain that was used to bind prisoners around the ankle. It prevented escape, just like Buddy’s tether.
What a beautiful picture.
God’s goodness is the ultimate antidote to wandering.
Not rules or responsibility or religion but only the goodness of God keeps us content enough to stay close.
So, one answer to our propensity to wander off is to constantly, in every way possible, remind ourselves of the unmatched, unrivalled goodness of God.
Every time, in the midst of busyness and distractions, we take a moment to remember how good our God is, we are tethering our heart to His. We are ensuring that there is only so far we can drift away from His presence and His will.
With less than five weeks to go to my daughter’s wedding, I have to put this into practice daily. Otherwise, my thoughts will be consumed with ribbons and glue and Pinterest pins and to-do lists and I will begin to believe that small, earthly things are really important and big, eternal things are unimportant, just as long as I find my wedding shoes and the florist gets the right shade of roses.
It is a battle we fight every day. It is the battle for our hearts.
And our secret weapon is the knowledge of how good God really is.
So, whatever we are doing today, we can make worship the theme tune. Just turn on some music, sing the words, believe the words, and live the words, even while driving the car or folding the laundry (or 120 orders of service!).
Find scriptures and quotes about our good God, decide they are true and display them where you will regularly see them. Today I have put a little reminder by the kettle because I certainly need that truth as often as I need caffeine today.
If you struggle to believe and trust in the goodness of your heavenly Father, may I suggest Bill Johnson’s book, God is Good. It is a life-changing study of the character of God that will tie you tightly to Him as you understand the depth of His love and the certainty of His goodness.
Try making it a habit every day to write down three things that you are thankful for. Ann Voskamp says in her book, One Thousand Gifts, ‘The real problem in life is never lack of time. The real problem of life – in my life – is lack of thanksgiving.’ That is because when we stop thanking God, we soon forget His goodness. The next step is wandering away, searching for goodness elsewhere.
It is a funny thing but Buddy never tries to run away when we are in the garden with him. When he is enjoying our presence, there is nothing else that can compete. He knows we are good. He knows we are his source of food and play and petting and walks. He just forgets sometimes.
It is the remembering that keeps us.
Today, whatever you are doing, determine to remember how kind and loving and good our God is. Remind yourself, in every way possible of the truth of the unchanging character of Yahweh.
Stop pulling. Stop straying. Stay close.
An abundant, joyful, purpose-filled life is only found in the presence of our good, good God.