My Scottish terrier Zelda is an enthusiastic walker. She reminds me every day—especially on particularly good weather days—when it’s time for our walk. She reminds me where I keep my shoes and socks. And she reminds me where we keep her leash. To be clear, I am not that forgetful; she just likes showing me where I keep the important stuff.
She practically drags me out from under the garage door as it opens to the driveway. She pulls me down the driveway. She aggressively leads me down the street. She stops abruptly to smell the latest contribution to the neighbor’s telephone pole. She jumps and barks at the dog that passes us by.
Do you get a sense for how violent a walk with my seventeen pound dog can be?
Enter the Gentle Leader.
The Gentle Leader is a strappy little contraption with two straps: one strap fits behind the dog’s ears to keep it in place and another strap fits over the dog’s muzzle and then slides through an O-ring under their chin, where it connects to the leash. When the dog pulls, the Gentle Leader puts pressure on the dog’s muzzle to make pulling uncomfortable.
Zelda is not a fan.
The Gentle Leader cramps her walking style. Her violent, pulling, starting, stopping walking style.
Instead, she has to walk beside me. She has to walk at my pace. She has to go where I am going. She has to simultaneously pay attention to me while also getting her fill of the neighborhood.
But here’s the real kicker: Sometimes I need a Gentle Leader.
OK. I need a Gentle Leader all the time.
I need Jesus all the time.
(See what I did there?)
But sometimes I like pulling ahead of Jesus. I like telling him where we are going. I like setting the pace.
And sometimes I like dragging my feet and procrastinating on the whole obedience thing and ignoring his encouragement to keep up with him. (And since Jesus leisurely strolled at about three miles per hour, any self-respecting mall power walker could outpace him.)
Or other times I see what other people are doing, and I get excited and distracted and want to check out that other situation, which is when I and everyone else get tangled up in one big mess.
But when I let Jesus be the Gentle Leader in our relationship and in my life, our walk is so much better than when I’m running the show. We go at his pace, and his pace is slow. He’s not in a hurry to get anywhere. We get to take in the sights and sounds and smells of the neighborhood. We get to talk about whatever is on our minds. We get to stop and chat with the neighbors.
Jesus doesn’t put us on a leash. Either we choose to walk at his pace or we don’t. Either we pay attention to what he is doing or we don’t. Either we go where he goes or we don’t. It’s up to us to make the choice to stay by his side. And we get to make that choice every single day.
When I put the Gentle Leader on Zelda—even though she protests—we have a better walk. She trots along on her short little terrier legs with confidence. She pays better attention to what’s happening around us. She lets me set the pace. And she still gets to sniff as we go. And I don’t need to visit the chiropractor.
I’m more confident when I walk with Jesus, too. I can rest easy in his pace. I can pay better attention to what he’s doing around me. I’m less concerned about comparing myself to others. I recognize his voice in my life.
So my encouragement to you today, dear reader, is to imagine what it would like for Jesus to be your Gentle Leader. Slow down and walk with Jesus in your imagination. What does Jesus have to say to you? What do you notice? How does going slow make you feel? Do you go somewhere unexpected? Allow yourself to be led by him today.