A Meaningful Story

collie dog running
Photo source: dogtime.com

This is a passage from a book called A Severe Mercy written by History and English language professor Sheldon Vanauken and friend of C.S.Lewis.

Here’s what it says. This is my translation from Romanian (the language I’ve read the book in) so please excuse the simplistic use of language.

”Gypsy, a wheat-coloured collie dog, has found itself in the possession of hundreds of acres of hills and forests, full of wondrous things such as paths tread by rabbits, springs and holes in the trees, and all these things were very thrilling. She had a roof above her head and plenty of food. Maybe she came to take all these things for granted. Her duties were few and not very difficult. More precisely, she had to adore her Master and enjoy his company. She knew she wasn’t allowed to chase the chickens. So it’s fair to say that she had to obey certain commands- to follow her Master, to come when she was called- all these being reasonable, and she wasn’t allowed to use any tricks. After all, it is in a dog’s nature to adore its Master.

There came a day, however, when while Gypsy was prowling on the far hills, beyond the garden, two things have happened: The Master called her name and a rabbit ran across the field. Gypsy started running towards her Master, as she’s always done.

But then she stopped. And thought that she didn’t have to obey her Master.

Maybe her Master didn’t understand how things work with rabbits. After all, those were her hills, right? The rabbit was hers as well. It was very possible that many of the things she knew, the way she knew them, were lies- including the story that everything around her, herself included, belonged to the Master. How could she know that the food in her plate has come from His Hand? There could have been a natural explanation. She was a free dog and that was the end of it. These thoughts crossed her mind while she waited, not knowing what to do. She heard the Master’s command again, the rabbit ran across the field. Gypsy turned around and started chasing the rabbit. Her choice was made. She was free to choose.

After a few hours, she came back home. She saw the Master waiting for her, but she didn’t leap for joy as she used to. Something new has come up in her behaviour: the feeling of guilt. So she advanced towards him, on her belly, like a snake. In that moment, she was certainly regretting her decision. But now she was also possessing a new type of knowledge- the possibility of sinning. Anyway, she was very obedient the next day and the day after. However, eventually, another rabbit appeared- and this time, she didn’t even hesitate. Soon, the only possibility that remained was that of chasing the rabbit. After which, she completely abandoned the rabbit and followed her own path.

The Master never ceased to love her but he could no longer trust her. After a while, she ended up living in an enclosed yard and was taken for a walk on a lead. All her true freedom has vanished.

But every now and again, the Master was granting her the chance to be obedient, willingly. If she chose to be obey, she would once again have the freedom to run across the hills that stood before her, seemingly unending.

But she never went back to being obedient. She was always choosing to run if she wasn’t around the Master. Knowing that hunger will bring her back home, the Master was allowing her to run away. He could have stopped her: the gun leaned against his shoulder and with one deafening bang, he could have put an end to her rebellion. But, as long as she was alive, she could still choose to be obedient which actually is true freedom. 

One day, Gypsy and her pup, Flurry, were brought to the edge of a forest. Gypsy has always manifested her disobedience between the boundaries of her hills. However, now, coming back to the car, she felt the old excitement. She turned around and ran away. The Master called her with a note of urgency in his voice. Flurry, as well-behaved as always, returned immediately. Gypsy, completely ignoring her Master’s signals, continued running through the dark forest. After looking for her and calling her for hours, the Master has abandoned the dog with much sadness, and returned home having Flurry alone.

Here, Flurry continued to live and enjoy the freedom granted by obedience. She was so happy to be with her Master and so glad when she was doing something that pleased him.

She knew that she was enjoying a perfect type of freedom as long as she was serving Him. She was obeying him gladly and willingly.

But Gypsy, the wandering dog, if still alive, would be running across paths and forest like an outlaw. She got dirtier and dirtier and her fur was full of thistles. Undoubtedly, some were  throwing stones at her without a doubt and she was often hungry but she no longer knew how to find the way back home. If she had pups, these too as well as their pups wouldn’t have been aware of how to find the way back home and this would be because of their mother’s dangerous proneness to disobedience, which has most certainly contaminated them too; and the gentle Hand of the master was something they’ve only heard about from stories.

And that was what Gypsy chose on Rabbit’s Day and she has continued to choose the same thing until, suddenly, any possibility of choosing has vanished.”

I’ve chosen to highlight this passage from what is one of my favourite books because it explains so well the relationship between God and us and the misunderstood concept of obedience and what this implies.



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