The morning air felt brisk against my face as I walked Joy, our 12 year old German Shorthaired Pointer, along the path through the park. Although tethered by the leash, Joy explored the sights and smells along the path.

Walking the dog offers sweet quiet space to commune with Jesus. I often talk with God, sharing concerns of my soul. Not always, but sometimes in the stillness that follows my prayers, the triune God whispers truths, hope, and direction into the deepest parts of my soul.

On this particular morning, the prayers of my heart were short and yet complex. Much of the stroll seemed encased in voiceless stillness with the occasional plea from deep within my heart concerning the anguish carried inside my being. Joy began to pull into the manicured soccer field, with her nose down. She tugged at the leash until it reached its full extension. I held tight preventing her from veering too far from the path. Clinching firmly to the leash while watching Joy’s movement, I noticed the gentle movement of God. Within my spirit, I felt God say: “I’ve got this situation. The person you are concerned about is on my leash.” Comfort flooded my discouraged soul. As Joy slowly returned to the park path, I prayed for the one upon my heart to return to the path of God.

Leash – a strap or cord for restraining and guiding.

A leash offers safety, discipline, and freedom. Indulge me as I allow this analogy with Joy to suggest spiritual insights. When restrained, the leash keeps Joy safe. She cannot run into the street or get too close to any unruly animal. Likewise, remaining connected to God allows His followers to experience His safe sheltering and safe presence in life’s storms. (see 2 Thessalonians 3:3)

The rope leash also provides discipline. A six feet extension communicates limits and even restriction. If Joy walks off-leash, she often meanders lowly and gets easily distracted. The leash provides discipline to continue walking at a reasonable pace. This tether also reminds Joy that she is not her own, she belongs to another. Similarly, disciples of Jesus belong to Another. When we become distracted by sin, the things of this world, and fleshly desires, God tugs at our soul with conviction and discipline to bring about repentance with a broken and contrite heart. (see Proverbs 10:17)

It might seem contradictory that the cord offers freedom, but truly it does. Joy can freely go wherever she likes within the limits of the leash. With freedom she explores grass, flowers, and dirt along the path. With freedom she trots alongside me to enjoy peaceful companionship. Freedom with the leash reminds Joy she is valuable and important. Remaining in Christ, obeying His ways, gives freedom to say no to sin and yes to right living. Walking alongside Jesus supplies guidance, security, and freedom to know we are not alone. Being fastened to Jesus summons the freeing reality of our identity as His beloved child, vessel, friend, and co-laborer. (see Galatians 5:1)

Living bound to God provides safety, discipline, and freedom in our journey through life.

Leash – a strap or cord for restraining and guiding.

As I contemplated Joy’s leash and God’s gentle whisper to my soul, the 1893 poem, The Hound of Heaven, by English poet Francis Thompson (1859–1907) arose within my mind. G.K. Chesterton considered Thompson one of the great English poets. The poetry of Thompson also influenced J.R.R. Tolkien (one of my family’s favorites) who admired him. Thompson’s prose in The Hound of Heaven was recognized as an 182 line masterpiece.

This vibrant victorian poem details Thompson’s own story of living a distracted, resistant, and destructive life, away from God. Using the image of a hound pursuing a hare, he describes God’s chase for his soul. Although Thompson fled the strong Feet that followed with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace God’s love unswervingly sought his wandering soul. The love of God persistently pursued Thompson until he rested under the Divine hand stretched over him.

At last the long pursuit comes on at hand the bruit; with full force God caught Thompson. God’s voice surrounded him like a bursting sea. God’s pure love allowed tough times so that Thompson might’st seek [love] in [His] arms. God invited Thompson to Rise, clasp [His] hand and come!

The Hound of Heaven reminds us of God’s active involvement in our lives. In Him alone we experience lasting love and divine rest. Thompson finally sought the one who had been seeking him, realizing that only God provides real happiness. He discovered that God redeems broken people and restores lost years. God changed his life. Just like Thompson, we too can come to the end of ourselves recognizing that God alone offers rest for the deep longings of our soul.

Leash – a strap or cord for restraining and guiding.

God has got you and the concerns of your heart, whether by leash or by his pursuit as the Hound of Heaven. He goes after you relentlessly. He offers His intense, steadfast love with quiet rest.

If you’re tugging on the leash, step back on the path and enjoy safety, discipline, and freedom. If distraction, resistance, and destruction describe your life, surrender to the Hound of Heaven and enjoy sweet surrender into His love.

Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

1 John 4:4

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.

John Fancis Xavier O’Conor. A study of Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven. New York, NY. 2017.

Brian Oxley and Sally Oxley. The Hound Heaven: A Modern Adaptation. Ft. Meyers, FL. 2013.

Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.

Oxvision Films, Emblem Media. The Hound of Heaven: A Modern Adaptation.

Cory Asbury. Reckless Love.

Puddles for Prayer: Please pray for these upcoming speaking engagements.

September 19 – Castle Rock, CO. Center in God’s Love Spiritual Retreat. To find out more and register: