by Nick Tucker – Associate Pastor – Youth and Worship
Lesson from Puppy Training
A couple months ago my wife and I decided that we were going to get a puppy, or should I say, my wife finally let me get a puppy. I knew that puppies are a lot of work and was able to anticipate some of the upfront work but not all of it. I had spent about a month before getting our puppy doing research and watching hours of dog training videos to prepare, but I quickly learned some humbling lessons. I also learned some rad things about dogs and appreciate more of creation now.
As most of you know, there is only so much preparation that we can do as humans for just about everything! There is no amount of preparation that will ever have us fully prepared, even when we feel like we’re fully prepared.
For me, with our puppy, I had it all figured out. I had a training journal that mapped out every hour of training and his daily schedule along with feeding times, feeding amounts, potty breaks and so much more. On paper, I looked and felt 100% prepared. I was confident about bringing our new puppy home; however, the reality check came quickly. I had done so much work preparing for all the “fun” training stuff like tricks, and fetch and adventure, that I had done very little with the house breaking work.
Even with a pretty rigid potty schedule, puppy would still find time to potty inside! He would go on and chew most things that weren’t his toys. Frustration rose in me, but I think that there’s something really interesting here about preparation and anticipation.
Mark 1:35-37 “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
This verse is so compelling to me because we see here some of Jesus’s preparation and anticipation, and this is only chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel. The disciples were searching for Him because people were obviously looking for Jesus! But Jesus didn’t forget the early stages of prep. He went out to pray in an isolated place. Preparation, anticipation.
With me and getting our puppy, I was so excited about the 12-18 weeks stage of puppy training, that I forgot the 8-12 weeks stage. I was so fixated on DOING all the “fun” training work, that I spent less time on the early “not fun” training.
Had I done things differently, I wish I would’ve spent more time on those early, foundational things in the 8-12 weeks stage. Our puppy is a great dog! He’s learning quick, socializing well, and is very attentive. But, it took a little longer for him to get some of the foundational basics down.
I wonder if we do similar things in our faith. We get so fixated on trying to become like someone who is a “better” or “more seasoned” Christian than us, that we forget to lay the foundation. Imagine if Jesus had just gone to other towns and preached without going out to pray in an isolated place first. If chapter 1 hadn’t happened, then I don’t know that the rest of the Gospel would’ve.
Jesus spent the time focusing on the early foundations of what needed to happen, and helped His disciples learn the necessary things to go out in the world and spread the Gospel message. Jesus didn’t rush into all of the miracles and the “fun” work of ministry. He spent time in the “not so fun” areas. I mean he spent 40 days in the wild being tempted by Satan. That doesn’t sound fun to me.
Just like training a puppy and teaching him things, it’s fun and good to look ahead at what is possible and what we could do. I look at all the hikes we could do when he gets a little bigger, and all the swimming, and boating, and hunting that will come!
But those things aren’t the everyday. Those things are occasional. The everyday with puppy is sitting at home watching tv while he is (hopefully) calm, patient, and polite. The everyday is him having impulse control to not put his mouth on everything he desires. The everyday is us spending time in prayer and in scripture. Anticipate and prepare for the “occasional”. Prepare for the hikes of life. Prepare for the times where we’ll have to walk up a hill that’s a little bit steeper than normal. Anticipate challenges and do the work early on to be able to face those challenges confidently.
This lesson from training a puppy I think is so valuable and it’s my prayer that we would spend more time on the “8-12 weeks stage” of our faith journey so that we can eventually tackle confidently the “12-18 weeks stage” and beyond.