One thing I love about traveling is getting out and seeing the world outside my usual bubble. Travel allows me to see new places and new faces and somehow that makes everything familiar look slightly new once I return home. And travel always provides fodder for some great stories and some great laughs.
On a recent flight I took there was a woman traveling with her Seeing Eye dog. This is just the sort of thing I’m addressing—no one in my day-to-day bubble has need for a Seeing Eye dog, so this is new and fresh and it makes me think about things in a new and fresh way. Let me describe this scene.
The woman looked to be in her 50s. I think she had some semblance of vision, although maybe not much. I admired her courage to venture out in travel; often the pace of travel makes it a bit stressful for me . . . and I am able to see and navigate easily in the hubbub of the airport. (Kudos to this gal!) Her guide dog was lovely—with silky caramel-colored fur and pale eyes; it was not a dog I had seen before, so I was all the more curious about it. (Later, I overheard that this dog was a Vizsla.) Many travelers seemed drawn to the dog, if not in proximity, then with their gaze. I’m sure it was a combination of its unusual coloring as well as the unusual circumstance of a dog being in the airport and then onboard the plane.
I too found myself staring at the dog, longing to pet it even though I knew that was forbidden. (The first rule of human etiquette toward Seeing Eye dogs is that they are not to be addressed.) So I kept my distance, but I found my eyes locked onto the dog and its owner, wondering about the dog, the woman needing its assistance, and how she was able to manage air travel.
The crowd’s fascination with the dog continued, grew even, as we exited the plane and then waited at the baggage carousel. Here this woman met up with her greeting party; one of them also had one of these dogs. His dog seemed a bit younger in look and behavior, and I wondered if this man might be a trainer, as he did not seem in need of the dog’s assistance. Anyhow, many people gathered near the dogs and their owners, and some asked questions. One passerby came forth to pet the lively, younger dog. The owner caught the hand and stopped it just before it met the dog’s head, even as the dog eagerly leaned forward to receive some love. The owner briskly said, “Don’t pet the dog,” and pushed the hand away. No other explanation was given, and initially I thought this was a bit rude, but upon further pondering, I now wonder if the owners of such dogs encounter this scenario countless times a day. How tiring this would get. The passerby shrunk away, certainly feeling sheepish and possibly confused as to why he was not to touch such an obviously friendly dog.
Something about this scene has stayed with me, and layers of meaning have been sifting through my mind.
Seeing Eye dogs are on a mission for their masters. They have a job to do: to walk closely with their master and be the eyes the master needs. These dogs are trained to complete loyalty to the master, to be in tune with the master regardless of circumstance so that crowds, noise, and bustle do not steal away its concentration.
So I think about the mission I am on for my Master. I have a job to do: to walk closely with Him and be the hands and feet of Christ Jesus. I am to have complete loyalty to the Master, to be in tune with Him regardless of circumstance. This task is one I am honored to take but I do so knowing that I am yet in need of much training and discipline. So often, when crowds come close, I am easily distracted from Him; I get overly excited or nervous, and my work performance is shot. Sometimes I sense God giving my heart’s leash a loving spiritual tug to bring me back to attention and remind me of my purpose.
Seeing Eye dogs are working dogs and must not become accustomed to strangers offering them attention. It’s not that these dogs don’t need attention and love; rather, it’s just best that these dogs receive all the love and attention they need from their master’s hand. The dogs then associate love and care with the master alone so that they become dependent and trusting of that hand above all others.
What a lesson I would do well to learn! My heart has become too accustomed to the possible attention of strangers; I eagerly lean forward to receive what others might give, even though my Master has promised to shower me with all the love and attention my heart longs for. I’m in need of a bit of retraining, so that my heart turns to my Master for the care and attention I long for.
Oh, to be trained unto the Master like that. So much of my internal difficulties would be resolved if I could be weaned from the distractions and attentions of the crowd. I like how this is described in 1 Timothy 4:7, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” How simple! If all of life is a training ground, each moment I can discipline myself unto godliness or unto ungodliness. I am in training, either to lean toward the crowd (training myself for ungodliness) or unto the Master (training myself for godliness). The promise is this:
“Godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8)