How to Quit Barking at Squirrels
One morning as I was praying, my dog kept barking out the window at squirrels. I got annoyed because his distractions became my distraction. I remember thinking, “Does barking get him any closer to the squirrel? …No.” And … ”Does his barking make any difference to the squirrel? …No, he/she probably couldn’t care less.” It seemed as he continued to focus in on his squirrel, he got more and more frenzied. Then something really interesting happened. I felt God tell me to say my dog’s name, Pinsch, three times slowly. As Pinsch continued to bark at his squirrel, I slowly said his name three times, and after the third time, he stopped barking and came and laid down by my side. I thought that was pretty cool, but then this question popped into my head: “Do I hear God when He calls me back to His side?” Oh boy! God knows I like metaphors. Then I felt God say, “Wendy quit barking at squirrels and relax at your master’s side.” Yes! Thanks, God for the super neat metaphor…but how?
How do we get dogs to stop barking? We teach and train them, correct? At first, they need a lot of reminders and encouragement from their trainer and master such as “stop”, “come here,” “good boy/girl”, but eventually they are able to develop a habit of not barking at squirrels. Perhaps this is a rough comparison, but it’s taken Jesus, my trainer and master, to help me break my habit of barking at squirrels.
Our squirrels aren’t grey with a furry tail like my dog’s squirrels. Ours are those things in life that we focus in on and bark at, but our focus and barking gets us nowhere. It could be work stressors, relationship issues, health issues, money issues, insecurities, our to-do list, reputation, recognition (or lack of it) etc. I found as I spent time with God, in prayer, listening, in worship, and reading scripture, He would show me when I began to bark at a squirrel and would redirect my attention back to Him. As I spent time with God each day, I made choices more in line with His word (His will) and as I made choices in line with His will, I became less and less distracted by squirrels. I actually discovered that I could live peacefully with my squirrels. Some squirrels even ran away entirely! I also found that my experiences with my squirrels helped others with similar squirrels.
Those squirrels that didn’t or couldn’t run away were no longer my focus. I rarely barked at them because I knew that wasn’t going to get me anywhere. However, training with Jesus seemed to get me somewhere. Resting by my master’s side by reading scripture, worshipping, choosing behavior in line with God’s will (such as being intentional with my words, turning to Him when I was angry rather than turning on others…that sort of thing) changed my focus. By resting at my master’s side, He transformed me and He changed my behaviors. Did you see that? He did it! I didn’t strive, I didn’t struggle, I didn’t beat myself up when I barked at a squirrel. I spent time with God and allowed Him to break my habit of barking at squirrels and develop a new habit in me…a habit of resting at my master’s side. At first I did it (spent time in prayer, read scripture, worshipped) because I knew it was God’s will for me and I trusted that He’d meet me there (‘Just do it’ sort of mentality). Then, I began to really enjoy resting by my master’s side and saw myself begin to transform. I’d see things differently. I responded to stress differently. I saw distractions as opportunities to bless others. God does the heavy lifting but I do have a choice. I do my part and God does His.
I understand that there are many holes in my dog training metaphor, but the only one I think worth mentioning here is this…we will never, ever, be a dog. We will never know what it’s like to be a dog or how they think or how they feel. Jesus, on the other hand knows exactly what it’s like to be human. If you are worn down from barking at “squirrels” take my recommendation and visit the world’s best human trainer. No one did human better than Jesus! You, too, can quit barking at squirrels and lay at your master’s side.