Lessons From A Rottweiler

Sometimes when we are sinning we are blowing right through soft boundaries or consequences that are warning us of big danger ahead.

We are watching our neighbor’s rottweiler while they are vacationing in Mexico. Like any dog, Samantha loves to go on walks so we get her out everyday. About a half mile above our home is a steep hill and with a 90 degree turn at the bottom. The first day we took Samantha walking she was way out in front of us because she is a bundle of muscle and speed. We live in a place where we don’t need to leash. We ended our walk at the bottom of the hill but Samantha was already at the top. I whistled for her to come and all 100+ pounds of her came barreling down the hill, her strength and weight aided by gravity.

My wife Kari and I saw what was about to happen. How was she going to navigate the 90 degree turn at the bottom of the hill? Well, she didn’t, and she plowed straight into the three foot snowbank on the side of the road leaving a large dog imprint. She shook it off like it was nothing and kept going.

Day 2: We walk Samantha again and she is out in front and to the top of the hill by the time we reach the bottom. Again, I whistle and she comes flying down the hill like a runaway train and right into the snowbank, in the exact same place as she hit before making the hole larger.

Day 3: Up the hill, down the hill, but this time her imprint in the snow was big enough to allow her to nearly make the turn with only a brushing with the snow bank, slightly increasing the size of the hole she was creating.

Day 4: Sam takes the same route at a similar speed, but she has pushed back the snow enough by her earlier crashes that she barely scrapes the snowbank on the way past.

Samantha was running without limits, didn’t care about the consequences, and the consequences didn’t really hurt her. She was not motivated to change her behavior and the more she hit the boundaries the more they gave away to further deplete any possible motivation to change.

Relationship with Sin

Samantha gives us one picture of us and our relationship with sin. There is the right sense of living with abandon, following the Holy Spirit, and being who God designed you to be. This is what Samantha was really doing. Then there is the wrong way of living with abandon – letting our sinful nature take control and running right through any boundaries that might keep us on track. When we hit up against these boundaries a few times (if they are not firm, painful ones) we can stop noticing the boundaries are there any more.

James 1:15 “Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Let’s say on the other side of the snowbank there is a cliff (which is common up here). Once Samantha completely obliterates the soft boundary and she comes flying down the hill (doesn’t change her behavior) and goes right through the opening. She is painfully surprised to be lying in the bottom of a ravine because she had done this many times before and “nothing” had happened.

Making It Real

Let’s make this real. A good number of pastors and missionaries come to Marble Retreat who are battling with pornography. Along the way when they acted out they hit some “soft” boundaries. For example, their own guilt, their spouse being upset if they got caught, or the impact on their intimacy with God or their spouse. These are real consequences of real significance.  Yet, these can be experienced as soft in that they can continue on with life as normal for the most part.

Then all of a sudden the pastor gets caught by staff or by an elder, the spouse has enough and initiates separation or divorce, or the pastor crosses another line and acts out sexually with someone. Then, all of sudden there is real and significant and lasting consequences. They are lying in the ravine.

Many who come to Marble ask the questions of “How did this happen?” or “Why did I do this?” And now are very regretfully living with the consequences of their blown up marriages or ministries or both.

One of the reasons sin gets to the point of “death” is the blowing through of soft boundaries. It is easy to blame those around the one acting out of not setting harder boundaries on them. However, at the end of the day it is the one who is sinning that has the responsibility and has been blowing off the consequences along the way.

God’s word serves many purposes in our lives. One of those purposes is giving us a roadmap for holy living. Or in other words, of not letting sin direct our steps, but of being Holy as He is Holy. Whenever we are breaking Biblical guidance for how to live our lives we may not experience an immediate noticeable consequence.  But, we are taking a step towards death and not towards life.

Psalm 119:133 “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”

So the next time you act out and experience a soft boundary or consequence take every measure needed to stop. The soft boundary/consequence is a big warning. Ask for help. Go to counseling. Attend a group. Tell a friend. Whatever.

Otherwise, you are a 100 pound rottweiler heading for a cliff with the aid of gravity and nothing to stop you.