by Tom Wacaster
In 1994 our pet poodle died of a stroke. My recollections of that dog are fond ones, particularly when it comes to how well disciplined she was. After several months of rigorous training, verbal commands, coupled with punishment and/or reward, that little 12 pound canine turned out to be a decent, well behaved, and without doubt, a loving companion for the family. It would be six years before we sought out and purchased another dog. Having had our present poodle now for that same length of time, we recall with fondness the "puppy" stage that has given way to a well trained, more mature, and sometimes lazy, canine. We learned some lessons during the trying time that it took to produce the finished product, but it has been worth the effort.
When she was barely twelve weeks old, and still in that "puppy" mode where her jaws were constantly moving and biting, the vet assured us that this was her way of getting acquainted with unfamiliar things. It seems that every time that little three pound ball of fluff turned around we were saying, "No Mille" (Mille is short for Millennium Cream, her registered name; she was born five minutes after midnight, January 1, 2000). A diligent effort to house break her eventually payed off, but in the process she heard "No Mille" so many times that she may have been tempted to think that was her name. She would chew on the carpet, our clothing, bare feet and fingers. Likely, were she able to talk, she would have responded: "Is 'No' the only word in your vocabulary?" I am confident that some of our more liberal thinking brethren might have somewhat to say about our tactics in raising dogs. "Your constant, 'No this,' and 'no that,' will produce a dog with little self esteem." Another would point out that dogs raised in such a conservative atmosphere tend to be "un-controllable." Still another might suggest that we should "praise the dog more and criticize her less." Well, so much for "suggestions," none of which, in this dog-trainers humble opinion, are worth more than the space used to pass this little tid-bit along to our readers. For the most part, our fellow dog-owners realize the need for loving discipline, especially during the early years of a dog's life.
Now, before I say anything about application, let me assure you that I am, by no means, suggesting that we ought to treat one another like "dogs." But there is a remarkable lesson to learn from my simple, but limited, experience as a dog trainer. To the Greeks, a horse that was considered "meek," was one that had its spirit brought under control. It was now useful to its master. Seeing that one of the beatitudes reads, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5), it would seem that each one of us would earnestly desire to obtain meekness, i.e. self control of the spirit within and restraint of the tendency to rebellion that so often characterizes man. What is it about man that calls for constant reminders that there are some things that we simply cannot do? When the elders say, "We cannot do this," or the preacher says, "No, that's far enough," they are simply trying to remind us that a specific act, habit, or thought is, for lack of a better word, "a no-no" in the sight of God. The more immature the child of God (whether because he is a new "babe" in Christ and has not had time to grow, or an uninformed older Christian), the more he will hear the words, "No, brother so-and-so, you cannot go that direction." Unfortunately, some react in a negative way: "Your constant 'no this, or no that' is 'negative preaching,' and we will not be inundated with such 'negative preaching.'" Others will believe the lie that discipline somehow warps character and stunts self image. Were some to speak their mind they might ask the elders or preacher, "Is 'No' the only word in your vocabulary?" Is there any way we can convince you that all such 'negative preaching' (as some are wont to say) is really for your benefit?
My constant refrain of "No Mille," was an attempt to bring a little animal in line with the demands of a master who loves her and wants, in the final analysis, to provide her with a contented and happy "dog's life." That will only be achieved through persistent discipline and a stern reminder to her that some things simply will not be tolerated. God has communicated the same thing to you and me. His desire is that we bring our will in submission to His so that, when the period of training and preparation has passed, we enjoy that home prepared for the saints of every age. Meanwhile, we will have to go on hearing, "No brother/sister," and realize that though we may hear those words often, they are NOT the only words in God's vocabulary. By His demands on our life He is really saying, "I love you; will you love me in return?"