Three weeks ago, on a crystal clear snow-cover morning, a beautiful white dog came bounding across our yard and into our hearts.  She had long mane-like hair, a shiny black nose, and lively blue eyes that seemed to beg, “Be my friend.”  She looked like something crafted straight from the snow herself.  Our five children donned their winter boots and jumped into the snow banks with her forming an immediate bond.

This dog rolled straight to her back when approached by the kids. She kicked her legs up and let them rub her belly while she closed her eyese in seeming bliss.  As the day wore on, we fed her the only food fit for an animal in our house: a large bowl of cheerios with milk.  As she lapped up her meal, Charlotte, our 3 year old, rubbed her head with her stubby mittened hands.  The boys said, “Let’s call her Cheerio.”  And the name stuck.

Surprisingly, this sweet natured dog stayed with us all day and nestled on our door stoop that night.  However, the next morning, just like most of the snow, she had disappeared.  Oh well, I thought, at least we didn’t get attached.  But I was wrong. We had.

Two days later as the children were watching Spongebob and eating their poptarts, Jeff announced, “Cheerio’s back.”  We all dropped everything, ran outside, and re-united with the dog we call ours.  We rubbed her, we fed her, we begged her to stay, but at the end of the day she gave us one sad look and began walking south across a barren rice field.  We literally watched until this dog became a tiny dot dragging its way into the setting sun.

But, much to our pleasure, the next day, Cheerio came bounding back.  Head held high, paws prancing up, she seemed to smile as she waltzed back into our lives.  This time, we were prepared. We were determined to woo this animal into our home forever.  Jaden, our 12 year old, mixed Gravy Train with warm water and filled a large basin with the meaty grub.  “It smells real good, Mom,” he told me as he watched her gobble it up through the kitchen window.  “I bet she’ll stay.”

Louis John, our 9 year old began handing out the dog treats made with real chicken, periodically that day. Even Josh, our 13 year old made great effort to rub her, play with her, and convince her we were family.  The girls danced with her until the sun began to fade.  We held our breath and silently came in for dinner.  As we washed up and made our plates, our family dog left again.

This routine has been replaying for over three weeks now. Cheerio comes to our home and loves us dearly. But then she leaves and goes Elsewhere for a day or two on her own  She always returns with matted hair and a thin middle. She is exhausted after her journey and she revels in our adoration.  But then she still leaves again.  She can’t commit to our love. She doesn’t understand how we want to be her only home.

Aren’t we all a little like this dog?  Don’t we, too, roam from the One who can provide all we need?  Don’t we leave Him after He’s blessed us, as we think we can do just fine on our own. And when we’re tired, hungry, and completely beaten by the world, don’t we come back, in hopes for a little more love?

I want to be committed to Christ through all of life’s journey.  I want to stay with Him and forsake myself and the pleasures of this world.  I don’t want to come to him tired and disappointed in what I’ve done on my own.  He is waiting for us, day in and day out, looking for His children who have strayed in their pride.  His mercies are new each day for those who have wandered, but how long will we in our ignorance roam?  Real joy is with Him.  Apart from Him there is only pain.

My children, each day, still scan the horizon for their dog.  Will she return?  Maybe.  Will I return?  Each and every day.

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