Overall, I'd have to say that Barnabas' training is going well. With all the obstacles he's had to overcome, including a recurring skin infection, he has made great strides toward becoming the dog we want him to be. The crazy thing is that he'll do a wonderful job one day, but then the next day it's like we're back to square one. Seriously? One day he understands and obeys the rules, but the next, he does whatever he wants. It's so frustrating, but as God quickly pointed out to me, Barnabas is not the only one with this problem.
As I voiced my distress to the Lord, I heard that still, small voice whisper, "Dana, you have learned to walk with me, but how many times do you try to run ahead of me just as Barnabas does with you?" Um, well. . . Of course, the lesson didn't stop there (it never does, does it?). "You know what I require of you, and you understand the rules I've put in place for you, yet how many times do you act in accordance to your own desires rather than my will?" Um, well. . . (eloquent, huh?) "And, Dana, you complain that Barnabas has difficulty staying focused on you, but I must point out how many times you fail to focus on me because you're distracted by so many other things." Okay, Lord, I get it. I'm just like Barnabas, but fortunately, You are not just like me!
Aren't you glad we serve a Master who is patient and kind, One who understands that we will often fail and forget everything we've learned? As I examine my own fatigue and frustration over Barnabas' training (or lack thereof, depending on the day), I am overwhelmed by how good God is to me. He's had to put up with a lot. I will readily admit I have not been the perfect child--far from it! But never once has He given up on me. Not once has He declared, "That's it! I've tried to teach you, but you keep doing the same thing over and over again, and I've had it." No, His love for me is so great that He'll keep training me until I become exactly what He wants me to be. Now that's a loving Master!
But the lesson goes one step further. Second Corinthians 1:3-4 says,
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
In other words, God bestows compassion on us, and He expects us to show others that same level of compassion. This means each time I'm tempted to throw in the towel with Barnabas' training and simply allow him to do what he wants, I need to remember that God has compassion and hasn't given up on me. And since I need to be like Him, I must act in the same manner. It will be better for me. It will be better for Barnabas (who, by the way, is not as disorderly as I may make it sound). In short, I would do well to remember that, like me, my sweet pup is not a finished product--he's a work in progress.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Philippians 1:6