“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight…” (Jeremiah 15:16 — ESV)

Our Great Pyrenees has traded open pastureland for a confined space measured in yards rather than acres. We drive by where Finley is now a prisoner, and he just looks at us through the fence as if to say, “When are you going to take me home?”

Truth is, he just wouldn’t stay home. Maybe he had a seasonal case of wanderlust. Perhaps he was lonely, though he was hardly alone. For years, he shared our pasture with sheep and a horse, visiting with cows through a few strands of electric fence any time he well pleased. But since our other sheepdog passed away some time ago, he’s been the only dog. And although he seemed content for awhile, his longings eventually won out. No barbed wire or electric fence could hold him back. Even having him neutered — after which he was forced to wear the cone of shame and dwell in one of our dark barn stalls for three weeks — didn’t persuade him to stay home. Each time he went missing, we’d soon discover him near our neighbors’ barn — visiting their dogs through the fence, just as happy as he could be.

So our neighbors invited him to stay, and because we were tired of chasing him to bring him back, we accepted. And Finley’s been living with Duckett’s dogs ever since — perhaps permanently. But he’s no longer visiting through the fence — freedom just a tail-turn away. Instead, he’s confined, and he doesn’t look so happy anymore.

And you know, each time I pass our Pyrenees prisoner, I’m reminded of my propensity to be like him. I’ve too often traded the freedom found in Jesus for something my flesh desired. Times when relationship with others drew me away, listening to the lie that another could fill the void that only Christ can satisfy. Occasions when I was lured by a longing for immediate gratification  — falling prey to food or drink or an item too easily obtained, with only a few clicks on Amazon Prime.

Because such tangibles don’t truly scratch the soul-itch with which I suffer, and my pursuit of them only leads to captivity. It’s Christ alone who brings relief — a personal relationship with Him resulting in true fulfillment, satisfying my deepest desires. Jesus’ words are the daily nourishment I need — for they alone are my joy and my heart’s delight.

And when I grow weary from fighting with my flesh — asking “When? When are You going to take us Home?” — I’m reminded with a gentle whisper that there’s no shame for those in Christ Jesus and that the Spirit of Life has set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1).

And I remember that, one day, all shackles will be cast aside as I — as we, His children — step into the glorious light and freedom that Heaven alone will bring.