Lord Nelson “Morpheus” Jones is a nine year old Beagle. He is our family pet and much loved by all my children. He is a good dog and we are very attached to him, however, as a Beagle he has a particular nature best described in the old Christian hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing as “prone to wander.” When the Peanut’s film makers created the story Snoopy Come Home, they were reflecting the general experience of most Beagle owners; especially of male Beagles. You take a hunting bred dog who is a tracker and burrower by nature and is among the brightest dogsin the area of problem solving; you put him in a backyard and hey presto! it’s no longer Rin Tin Tin we’re watching but Escape from Alcatraz. Come to think of it, Nic Cage is oddly beagle-like in the face.
In any case, last week, Morph as we call him, escaped from the yard and I didn’t realize that he had gone. There was a knock on my door. i opened the door and the city animal control guy was there, a kindly older gentleman with obvious years of experience written into his skin. He asked if we had a white Basset Hound. I said no, but we did have a white Beagle. The lights came on in his head as he said yes, it was a beagle and it was out running loose on the highway. That would be State Highway 142, San Antonio Street, that runs from Lockhart to San Marcos; a busy thoroughfare. Naturally, I threw on some shoes and hit the road. The Animal Control truck drove ahead of me to try and herd Morph back towards our neighborhood as he had already flirted with death several times among the speeding cars, nearly causing a wreck or two. I saw him relatively quickly and pulled into a driveway. I stepped out of the car, knelt on the ground and whistled, calling him by name.
Morph stopped, sat very still, looked right at me ears up, and then turned and ran as fast as his legs would carry him the opposite direction. He then took a sharp right into one of the older residential areas of Lockhart. In that part of town, there aren’t a lot of fences and the house sit on big lots with a great deal of space between the roads. So, as you can imagine, for the next two hours I drove and walked and whistled and called out for my missing pet. I was desperate on many levels.
Two hours later, nothing. Still I searched. As I returned dejectedly to the house, my wife Karin was just pulling in the driveway with the dog in the front seat! She had found him and Morph was actually glad to be home! He leaped into my arms and licked my face. Thrilled, this time, to see me. Karin then related to me what had occurred.
As it turns out, Morpheus had doubled back while I was searching for him and had gone several blocks towards the downtown square. Karin saw him on the side of the road, pulled over and hopped out to get him. He initially ran from her just as he had from me, but was cut off by a serendipitous encounter with a kid on a skateboard. He turned and ran up into a yard. This time, however, he found a fence and was cornered. He sat down. Karin approached him but he didn’t recognize her and snapped at her, barking and growling. But Karin bravely and persistently knelt beside him, calling his name gently, over and over again. And suddenly, he recognized her. He leaped into her arms, foreshadowing his upcoming response to me. Karin said he was so scared he was shaking. He just leaned against her, pressing in to make sure she couldn’t get away and she brought him home.
Now, the more I thought about this experience, the more I came to realize what a great metaphor it was for God’s pursuit of each of us. We, by nature, are prone to wander. We run hard after whatever we see just beyond our reach that we are sure will make us happy, and then we are lost. We find ourselves on an unknown street fighting for our very lives and living in perpetual fear. Meanwhile, our loving master begins his search for us.
He searches and calls out our name. As the brokenhearted Creator in Genesis, searching for Adam who is hiding in the woods, He calls us. As Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, he leaves the 99 sheep safe in the fold and quest deep into the wilderness in search of the one who wandered away so He can carry his lost one back home. And we have no desire to be found.
When He does find us, in our fear, we don’t recognize Him, so we run away as fast as we can. We snap and growl at Him, no matter what form He chooses to approach us in. But sometimes, sometimes we recognize Him, if we take enough time to think it through. Sometimes we run ourselves into a corner and realize that we can run no more and we must face that Voice that calls to us from outside of our fear and unbelief. Then we will recognize Him. Then we will leap into His arms and press into the One who gives us life and love and purpose. Then He carries us back home, safely encircled in His gentle compassion.
O best beloved, if we care so much for these smelly, wandering, chewing, pooping creatures that try so hard to love us, but ultimately fall short; if we can love these barely tame, vagabond, wandering dogs, how much more can the One who Created us love us?
Stop running. Release your fear. Turn and be home.