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Since I have a 5-month-old puppy at the house, I have placed a baby gate in front of the hallway leading to the bedrooms in the parsonage. It is the only way I can ensure that my puppy doesn't sneak away from me and run back into the nicely-carpeted bedrooms without my supervision! Cocoa is not a fan of this gate, as I will often go back to a back bedroom to do something and leave her alone in the living room.
While on vacation this week, Cocoa was a bit spoiled by all the time we got to spend together. So when I went back behind the baby gate without her, she was not happy. She cried, she barked, and, as usual, tried her best to get past the gate. At nearly 30 pounds, she's now strong enough to knock down the gate--and that is what she did. I suddenly heard a loud, clanging noise as the gate fell from the carpeted doorway onto the tile floor in front of it. Then, I heard complete and total silence. No crying, no barking, no paws prancing on the floor. I became worried and called out to her. No response. She didn't even try to get over the gate to get to where I was. I quickly finished what I was doing and went to go check on her. She was sitting on the floor, by the couch, with a fearful look in her eye.
I went to the couch and began to pet her, telling her it was okay and she was not in trouble. She jumped up on the couch, got half her body on my lap, and leaned against me. I could feel her panting. She was scared.
Sometimes I forget that for as much spunk and independence as my dog loves, she is still a baby. She loves to push boundaries. She always wants to be near me. She enjoys exploring the house. She enjoys ripping up my laptop bag as a way of saying she hates when I go to work. She likes to run in the yard. But for all the things she loves to do, she still sometimes pushes too far--like she did with the baby gate--and will get scared and need her mom.
As I pet my puppy, trying to calm her down and tell her it was okay, I began to realize this is often what God does with us. God gives us the freedom and free will to make decisions. We can go where we want, do what we want, and say what we want, whenever we want. We get to press the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable to God. We get to come and go as we please in our relationship with God. But at the end of the day, we are still (and always will be) God's children in need of our loving parent to care for us. In those moments where we are afraid, alone, have made a big mistake, feel worthless, feel abandoned, or feel unwanted, we just want to crawl up into God the Father's lap, give Him a hug, and feel assured, wanted, and loved once again! God never gives up on us, never stops loving us, and is always ready to welcome us with open arms so he can assure us that we are loved and worthy to Him.