I took my daily walk along the beach, all the way to the turnaround point…the end of the property, marked by large rocks. I don’t know who owned the rest of the shoreline. It had no houses on it, and sometimes a few people were on the beach or in the water, but they looked local, not like me, a visitor.
This day, I saw a man and two dogs. At first, I saw only one dog in the water with him. I stopped to watch for a moment, because the dog was a lab and reminded me of my own. The lab stayed close to the man’s side as they swam into shallow water. That’s when I saw the second dog, a German shepherd, probably less than a year old. He was running back and forth along the water’s edge, very excited but also very unfocused. The shepherd met the lab and owner as they came out of the water. As the shepherd jumped around and played, the lab looked at his owner for instruction and affirmation. The owner leaned down and talked directly to the shepherd, then whistled and spoke a command that I assume told both dogs to follow him into the water again. He was training them. The lab stayed by his side. The shepherd began to follow but only made it a few feet into the water before deciding he’d rather run along the shoreline. I assumed the owner had brought along the older lab as a role model for the young pup in training. The lab stayed focused. The shepherd stayed unfocused.
They had the same trainer but were at different phases of their lives and training. I’m sure their dispositions were different, too. One had more experience.
I thought of how we as Christians must look to observers at times. We all talk about God, but our behavior is very different and quite confusing. When people look at some Christians, they might think they get an accurate picture of who God is, but then someone else responds to Him and represents Him differently. We know why. We know we’re different people; God created us to be unique. We’ve had different experiences, different amounts of training. We have different baggage and temptations. It makes sense to us. We can be different but serve the same God. But to others, our differences might seem confusing, as if we don’t respond to God well, or, as if He’s incapable of creating any kind of consistency in us.
Our faith isn’t just about our behavior, but we have to acknowledge that our behavior is often the only tangible thing people see of us. We have to be willing to show them more, to be authentic with our struggles and obedience. To answer questions and not get defensive when people seem to accuse us or God because of the discrepancies they see. God is a creative God. We are different. But He is the same God.
He knows who is watching us at all times, and He knows how to use us–our obedience and our distractions–to reveal Himself to others. Are you willing to follow Him through the good times and the messy times, not just for yourself but for others to see, too?