I regularly walk at a nearby park called Green Lake. It is a favorite for many Seattlites and for good reason. It’s beautiful and dog friendly. Over the years I have observed many methods of how people walk their dogs. Correction: how dogs walk their people! To avoid this annoying problem, a popular tool has become in vogue. It's called the flexi-leash. This leash allows the dog free reign to pull way ahead and go where it pleases. Or to lag way behind to sniff out or mark something interesting—thus allowing the human at the other end a more relaxed and carefree walk. Or does it? On more than one occasion I've witnessed a near collision between a flexi-leashed dog and a bike rider. I've also been scared out of my bejeebers by dogs that have suddenly lunged at me or my dog unencumbered. Regardless of the inherent dangers, many owners are happy with this arrangement. They follow their dogs lead; stopping when they stop or waiting patiently for them to finish whatever they are doing (accosting unsuspecting passersby) before moving on.
I believe this idea, this picture, is a great representation of the latest philosophy. It symbolizes what the modern individual believes about love. If we love someone (our kids or our dogs, and on that rare occasion... even our spouses... wink), we want them to be happy; to be free to explore and experience whatever it is that fulfills them. And we want this love to be reciprocated (especially from our spouses!). If this is the new ideal for love then it stands to reason that God must love us in the very same manner. We've come to believe His love as a “flexi-leash” kind of love. And that His ultimate desire is to allow us the freedom to explore and experience whatever it is that fulfills us and makes us happy. As long as we are safe and don’t hurt anyone.
But then I read my Bible… Matthew 16:24 says, “If you want to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
—if: following Jesus is optional
—you want: desire, choose for myself
—to be my disciple: a learner, a student of the Savior
—you must: the next part is NOT optional
—deny: forsake, reject, refuse
—yourself: who I am, what I want
—take up: embrace willingly
—your cross: that very thing I don’t want, that brings suffering and death. God's will over mine
—and follow: accept the authority of and give allegiance to
—me: God in the flesh
This, like many of the Savior's teachings, is hard to accept and offensive. What kind of love is that? This scripture takes faith to believe and to enact in my own life because I am an American, born in the ME generation. I much prefer flexi-leash love, that's all about what I think is best for me. Yet there it is in black and white. God's word to humanity regarding His ultimate design for how to walk with Him in this life. It may not sound or even "feel" like love, but there is a tremendous promise of fulfillment if I embrace God's ways over my own, “Whoever loses their life for me will find it…and I will reward each person according to what they have done.” ~Jesus