Larry's been at it again. I don't know if it's because he misses his pal, Jake, or because he misses the mistress of Jake's house, but he's taken to high-tailing it back up to the neighbors' house every chance he gets. Forget the shock collar around his neck. He's decided it's worth the zing to gain his freedom.
He doesn't stay long. That's because when we notice his absence, one of us will drive 1/4 mile up the hill and pause at the neighbors' driveway. When I'm the dog-fetcher, I bring the car to a screechy stop at the top of the hill and watch as Larry perks up his ears, stands from his lounging spot on their front porch, and lopes toward me. He knows our routine. He even knows to come to my side of the car, where I'm able to reach back over the seat and snag the back door handle. He hops onto the back seat, tail thwacking the window and driver's seat as he maneuvers himself comfortably. My hand gets a lick. Sometimes, he rests his nose on my shoulder.
Even though I'm usually annoyed that I had to make the trip, I don't scold. In fact, I use my "happy" voice. My words might smack of lecturing ("You belong to me, you silly pup. Not her. I'm your mama.") but Larry only hears love in the babbling.
We head back down the hill and drive together over the nasty wire -- the one that zaps him whenever he makes up his mind to rebel. On that return trip home, Larry feels no sting. And that's by design.
All the hurting, I believe, should happen on the trip out. I want Larry to feel the sting of pain when he leaves our boundaries. But his homecoming? That, in my opinion, should be pain-free and filled with lots of hugs and doggy treats. Because at some point, my desire is that while my dog is sitting on that other porch, it will occur to his little half-pound brain that home is a wonderful place, and it isn't much worth all that howling and hurting just for a chance to have his own way.
Do I even have to point out the spiritual application? Probably not. But let me just encourage you to think about those in your life who have crossed that wire and headed up the hill. Pray that they're miserable while in the wilderness. Pray that they find no satisfaction in their rebellion. Let the Lord deal with them in their desert. He knows how to convict and correct. All you need to do is ready yourself for the homecoming. Prepare yourself to forgive. And when you see that loved one crossing that hill, stretch your arms wide, smile, and remember to use your happy voice.
Homecomings should be joyous.