Recently, in correspondence with Charlie Johnston, who writes wisely at The Next Right Step, he referred to neurological difficulties that he had, and which are somewhat similar to ones that I deal with daily, as God's Leash.
I had commented to him, complained really, that often I have had the beginning of a post in mind, usually as I am praying, and as I go to write it, it all just disappears, and I am unable to write what seemed so clear moments before. Though I have found this frustrating, I was of the opinion that if God wanted me to complete a particular article He would have to give me the grace to do so.
What never came to my mind was that this could in fact be a leash from God, so after a word of encouragement from Charlie I began to meditate on this.
My next door neighbor has a beautiful, young dog. But, it has never been on a leash, as near as I can tell, and when it is allowed to go into his yard, it barks at every one and everything it sees or imagines it sees. As another dog passes in the park behind our house, on a leash with its owner, the neighbor dog puts up a howl, and the park dog goes about its business, without a peep, or even serious acknowledgement of the neighbor dog.
I have lived more of my life like the neighbor dog than the park dog. I set out on my own from my parent's loving home in the late 60's to make my way in the world. I abandoned my faith for many years, until I heard a voice I could not mistake, and slowly started to return to the faith of my youth, a journey that has been long, difficult at times, and filled with my own continuing disobedience.
Even after I heard a call to return to my faith, much of my return was on my own terms. I lacked discipline in both my prayer life, and in my daily life.
But, one day I had a vision of a corral, and of a cowboy saddling a horse that was not interested in taking a saddle on. How I knew that this bucolic image was a vision and not just a cool picture, was that I knew that the horse was me, and that the cowboy was Jesus. By the way, Jesus looks pretty cool in chaps and a ten gallon hat.
So, for many years, even though I was trying to live the life of a Catholic Christian, I was a lot like the neighbor's dog. I was regularly lacking in self discipline, and proper boundaries. That, of itself, does not make me much unlike many people walking on the face of the earth. However I had been committing myself daily to do as God wanted in my life and in the life of my loved ones, so it really couldn't fly.
Since my prayer was to do God's will, God was in the midst of answering it. But, unbeknownst to me at the time, my Mother, seeing what a rascal her son continued to be, had been praying as well. But, her prayer was that God would, in her words, literally hit me over the head with a baseball bat.
Our God is an awesome God, as the song goes, and also has a sense of humor. God killed two birds with one stone, actually with a Ford Aerostar van.
Life was pretty good at the time, at least from a career perspective. I was working on a new venture with my employer, one of the largest information technology companies in the world. Okay, so my wife and I were separated and had been for a few months. But, we were trying to work things out. Of course, now 12 years later, I can see that I did not have a clue what WORKING things out really would mean and involve.
So, one day I was driving home from work. It was near New Year's, and I was rear ended by the baseball bat, disguised as an Aerostar van. I sustained a concussion in the event, and lost a few moments of time. It was not of itself a big deal, but I had sustained about 9 previous concussions in my years of playing sports. Within days, I lost the ability to function mentally except at a basic level. It took years for cognitive functions to return to a useful, if not consistent level.
I never returned to work. It would have been pointless, since I had no idea particularly who I worked for, or what I did there.
Life as I would have remembered it, if I could remember it, changed drastically, and over many years I learned to adapt to it. By the grace of God, my wife and I were able to build a deep love and commitment to each other that I marvel at daily. We have separate and joint prayer lives, and depend on God for everything. At least I would depend on God for everything if I were not a sinner, and prone to hearing Frank Sinatra in my head singing "My Way", and sometimes believing it.
Where I was like the neighbor's dog, running all over the place, barking at shadows, I am ssslllooowwwlllyyy learning to be trained to a leash. Now that I know that is what God is doing to me, I think I might be able to engage in it more intentionally.
The leash has been pretty tight at times, particularly in the early years after my accident. But, God lets me off leash for a while oftentimes. Sometimes I am obedient off leash, particularly if I have been to confession in the last couple of weeks. Other times, I bark and run around like an idiot, at least figuratively, but definitely sinfully. I can certainly take to heart Mark Mallett's teaching today On Being Faithful.
I have often complained about this leash, and tried to fight it. Now that I know what it is and that it is for my own good, and that of my loved ones and others I encounter, I might ask for a matching muzzle to go with it. But, in that many times when I want to write something I am unable, maybe God is ahead of me on that one. MAYBE?? OK, He is ahead of me on that, as always.
I do not know if God has given you a leash with or without a matching muzzle in your daily life, to help you be more obedient to Him. But, I am grateful that He loves me so much and does not want to lose me, or any of those I have reason to influence for Him.
Knowing what I have learned recently about this leash, I can now not be distracted by its presence, but can commit myself more to focusing on the Next Right Step. And that is the real point of it all.