Parent Obedience School

You may or may not know this, but there are such things as a doggie mug shots and doggie bail. I was abruptly introduced to this unknown world of doggie detention when our well-intentioned, poorly-behaved dog became a regular offender out here in San Diego.

“Our children are well-behaved by California standards, but Mater is fatefully behind by dog standards,” my husband called to inform me before the children and I made our way the rest of the way across the country to our new place of residence. Little did I know how true those words would prove to be in a few months time.

Mater, eager to roam freely and cooped up in our yard (read: small patch of grass), found a weak point in the fence and began a life of doggie delinquency. He was picked up twice by the powers-that-be, which is how I learned of the mug shots and such.


You see, we never enrolled Mater (as in Tow-mater from Cars; forgive us, we have three small boys) in obedience school as a puppy. We were too busy, and he was too cute. Something so wrinkly-faced and tiny didn’t need serious training.

But then, sweet little Mater turned into small thoroughbred Mater. With the strength of a Pit bull and the playfulness of a Boxer, Mater is a lover who accidentally wounds people with his whip-like tail and aggressive licking. We love this animal, but he is a lot. When I introduce him to people I always say, “Just know that Mater is polarizing. You love him or you hate him.”

Mater and I have a lot in common. We both struggle to follow the simplest commands: sit and stay.

In Eugene Peterson’s memoir of life as a pastor, he paints a beautiful picture of what the Lord began to teach him in unsexy middle years of pastoring a congregation, a time he calls the badlands.

“Looking back now, I see myself in those prebadland years as a Labrador puppy, full-grown but uncoordinated, romping and playful, but not yet ‘under authority,’ oblivious to it’s masters command: ‘Sit.’ The only verbal signal that the puppy was capable of responding to was ‘Fetch,’ which sent him galloping across a field, catching a frisbee in full flight, and returning it with wagging tail, ready for more. In the badlands I learned to sit.”


The Lord, it seems, in His all-knowingness, realized that I needed to be enrolled in an obedience school to learn how to listen to Him, how to heal by His side and how to keep pace with His stride. Thus, he enrolled me into his parenting school of obedience.

I think I am one of His slower students, but I am beginning to catch the idea. As averse to my nature as the words “sit” and “stay” are, they are becoming more comfortable over these years of parenting.

The day-in and day-out nature of the call to parent – the thousands of lunches prepared, the insanity that is bedtime, the limitless loads of laundry – is teaching me to sit and stay close to the Master, learning to trust in what I cannot see, in the invisible work He is doing in me and in my children.

Now, if I could just get Mater on board.

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