It is pretty much impossible to walk our beagle Sparrow on the sidewalk. Too many people, dogs, cats, bugs and who knows what else have left their fragrance in the cement for Sparrow's super-sensitive hound's nostrils to ignore. A walk on the sidewalk becomes more of a drag because her snout stays pretty much glued to the path.
Our solution is to walk Sparrow in the streets of our neighborhood where rubber comprises the main scent (and which is of little interest to Sparrow). Thankfully, we live in a fairly quiet area where not too many cars impede or endanger our way. Still, the street harbors more peril than the sidewalk, and we have to keep eyes and ears open as we and Sparrow make our way.
In similar manner, God must often escort His trusting children in Christ off the safe and beaten path in order that we might avoid the distractions that so allure our attention. He leads us along ways of challenge, difficulty, loss and pain in order to direct our focus Heavenward. "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy Word" (Psalm 119:67). Our spiritual enemies' distractions offer less appeal when we are hurting, or when concern furrows our brow. In times of trouble, therefore, we can be sure that God intends to turn our gaze toward the only true and safe Home of our hearts.
You can learn a lot from a beagle. I could write a book about the ones we've owned. No, I could write volumes. Mostly from Sparrow, lessons of sweetness, love and unwavering devotion grace us every day of our shared life together. I don't know what goes on in animals' minds, and what, how, or if they think. I do believe, however, that they feel. Dogs, in particular, seem to feel deep and intense affection for their masters. In Sparrow, she never seems distracted from loving us, just as our Heavenly Father never veers from being everything His children need Him to be in every moment. Indeed, our attention often wanders from the One who created and sustains our very being (Acts 17:28). Never for a moment does He look away from His trusting sons and daughters, however, and the more we understand and embrace the truth of His unwavering devotion, the more we will find our hearts increasingly directed toward loving even as we are loved. Sparrow daily teaches us this vital lesson because even though she's easily distracted by the scents of the sidewalk, she never wavers from the sentiment of her heart.
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."