The Safest, Surest Course

Dear Will:

Last month we caved in and finally got our daughter Bryn a dog. She had been working us pretty steadily for nearly a year, a no matter how many obstacles we threw in her way, she still seemed to find a way around them. You might say she was doggedly determined. So as her ninth birthday approached we knew we had little choice: It was time to head to the pound.

We returned home with Barnum, an exuberant little mutt with a propensity to walk on his hind legs, leap up to try to lick your nose, and steal the wiffle ball in the middle of a game of home run derby (Snoopy made a much better shortstop). He is also a submissive pup, inclined to pee on the carpet when he gets in trouble. He is full of energy and prone to mischief, but inasmuch as he adores our daughter (and she him) we have accepted him more or less as one of us.

Not long after we had brought him home, Dana and I were out for the evening while we left Luke, our 13-year-old, in charge of the others. The three kids decided to take Barnum down to Linda Vista School and let him run around. Since they were alone at the school they released the dog from his leash and to let him tear around the grass. They were having a wonderful time when another couple from the neighborhood appeared on the school grounds with a pair of German Shepherds—also off leash. Well, as you might imagine those big dogs spotted Barnum right off and the chase was on. Of course meek little Barnum wanted nothing to do with two dogs three times his size, so he took off at full speed, leaving our children in a panic.

With the help of the extremely apologetic couple, Luke, Bryn, and Seth searched for Barnum for around half an hour. He was nowhere to be found. Worried sick and unsure what to do next, they finally gave up and went home—where they found Barnum lying in the garage, awaiting their return. Needless to say, they were amazed that Barnum knew the way home (he had been with us maybe two weeks at that point) and thrilled that he already recognized our house as his house, a safe haven where he knew he would be taken care of.

As I thought of what had transpired, I was reminded of Jesus’s parable of the Prodigal Son. You will recall that He told of a young man who laid early claim to his inheritance, left home and squandered it on riotous living. Plunged into poverty, he finally decided to return home, beg forgiveness, and ask for a job working as servant to his father. Rather than berate his son for his foolishness, the father instead held a great feast in his honor—for he who had been lost was found.

Jesus told that story to remind us all that no matter how far astray we might wander, when we make the effort to return to our Heavenly Father, He welcomes us with open arms. In that regard, when we find ourselves wandering where we shouldn’t or harried by the evil that surrounds us, it would do us all well to remember what Barnum already knows: that the safest, surest course is the one that leads us home again.