Running with the Big Dogs?
I guess everyone has heard the old saying, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch”. You know, if you’re not fast enough or strong enough, or maybe you’re just not “bad” enough. It usually all adds up to something a little less than where the average Christian should be anyway.
Lately, I’ve opted to stay on the porch myself.
That being said though, I’ve honestly had some really heart-to-heart conversations with the Lord lately. About that very thing. Staying on the porch often means we choose to let those we use to run with go on to run by themselves. It’s not that we suddenly dislike them. It’s not that we no longer think about them, care about them or wish we could see them. In fact, there are quite a few people I miss very much.
I miss the big dogs. I just don’t miss the things we use to do together.
Choosing the World Over God
I use to be a very different person than I am now. Having been a musician for almost as long as I’ve had breath in my body, I’ve had some unique opportunities. Very few of them good. Oh, it started out well enough. I remember singing with the church choir before I was old enough to read. My mother was a Godly woman who was my singing partner in church as I grew and learned to play guitar. Then right after high school, I toured with a bluegrass gospel band for several years.
However, I made a wrong turn somewhere after all of that. Before you know it, I was a guitar, mandolin and bass player who could also sing lead and harmony vocals all while managing to front whatever band I happened to be in at the time.
I traveled a lot, made a lot of money, and spent a lot of money. There were parties, and booze and drugs and always plenty of opportunities to multiply all of that.
I’ve played in front of thousands of people. I played in the outfield at Churchill Downs, I was on television in Nashville and have been in many radio stations and recording studios in a couple of different states. I’ve traveled hundreds of miles between shows and sometimes saw the sun rise two or three times before getting any sleep.
Yeah, those big dogs will sure keep you awake.
Choosing God Over the World
Of course, all that “exciting” living came to an end eventually. For me, it just didn’t hold the glamour it did in my younger years. Besides, I was beginning to feel God tugging at my heart. Of course, He had always been a part of my life, I just hadn’t always considered submitting my whole life to Him. It’s crazy, now that I’m older, I see exactly what my mom meant when she said I’d understand someday.
Eventually, the drinking and partying like a rock star stole everything from me. The saddest part is that I had let it get to that point. I could have stopped it long before the bottom fell out from under me, I guess. I mean, they say hindsight is 20/20, and really, it is.
Looking back, I can see so many opportunities to do the right thing. I can see, with certain clarity, all those “what if” moments, where things would have been so different if I’d only gone with plan B instead of plan A.
But the most important thing about hindsight… you can’t actually change anything. Staring too long into the past, and studying too hard on wrong turns, bad decisions and things you wish you’d never done, will drive you crazy if you let it.
I finally decided I was tired of letting it. And that’s when I finally told God I was giving myself to Him, one hundred percent. I found a church that taught the Truth as I’d never heard it before. That’s when I finally decided to stay on the porch and just let those big dogs run.
Making the Transition
When you’re in the midst of a Spirit filled church service, things are different. Surrounded by people who love God and, because of that, love you too, it can cast a certain rose-colored glow on reality. There’s nothing quite like feeling the Holy Spirit come pouring down like drenching rain. I swear, it’s the most peaceful thing I have ever experienced.
But once you leave those four walls, everything can change in a single heartbeat. Suddenly, you’re back in that world you’ve had to live your whole life in. The one where anything can happen, and most of them haven’t actually been that great. That place where a person can be led right back out into the waters to drown in their own misadventures.
And it’s hard!
When everyone wants you to keep doing those things that got you into hot water in the first place, there are several things that can happen. One is that you’ll wind up right back in the same old same. Thank God, I managed to keep myself from falling. But just a tinge of the “old life” can’t be that bad, can it? I can still do things other Christians do, even though in my heart it might feel like it’s too worldly for me personally, can’t I?
The big dogs will chide you. They’ll tempt you, without ever meaning you any ill will at all. Those who don’t have the light in them don’t realize how dark it is. Of that, I’m certain, because I was one of those myself, at one time. And if you aren’t careful, if you don’t surround yourself with Godly people who will hold onto your lifeline for you, you’ll float right back out. Maybe not as bad as it once was, but far enough that you’re just out of God’s will for your life.
Finding Out I Wasn’t Alone
Finding Godly friends and family, however few they might be, can make a bigger difference than you might imagine. It can finally help you to learn to get the flesh under submission, to be mindful of every waking minute, not just the ones spent in church.
I know, those who dared to speak the Truth to me when I needed it most are really the ones responsible for saving my life! My eternal life! And for that, I can never say thank you enough.
But they know that.
The crazy part was when I found out the Bible speaks about the very same thing I had spent so many years going through! How crazy is that?
Listen to this:
- Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Where they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:” (1 Peter 4:1-4)
That bold part there, that’s verse 4. There are your big dogs. They can’t imagine why you aren’t running with them any more. Why you’re not raising cane and asking questions later like you use to. Why you aren’t still cussing and dating a new significant other every weekend. They can’t figure out why you stopped drinking and throwing parties and LIVING for the next big thing, the next big show, the next big “whatever”.
The Most Important Thing
Once you have removed yourself far enough away from the noise, far enough away from the excitement and hullabaloo, then you finally have a chance to really see.
You can pause, take a breath, enjoy some peace and solace. Your body, your liver, your brain and your family will thank you!
Well, some of them.
But you’re finally able to make some sense of it all. And just a little further down in that same chapter of 1 Peter, we find some more truth:
- But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover a multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)
The older you get, the more you realize, you aren’t going to live forever. Suddenly, hearing from God and getting right with Him takes precedence over any and every thing else in your life. Or at least it should.
The sad part is that we have to let it get to that point. Oh, that I could have served God my whole life! I count all those years without Him as the most painful loss I could ever have suffered. And yet, I must be content to come at this later hour, to serve Him with all that I can and in all that He will allow.
Keep Pressing On
Running with the big dogs, well it seems exciting for awhile. Until you realize, it’s not taking you where you need to be. Eternity is going to last an awfully long time, and I dare not waste another minute!
Why, I wonder to myself now, did I not realize that my tomorrow’s weren’t promised to me? Why didn’t I realize that I could have died MANY times over, living the way I was living all those years ago? What made me think I was bullet proof?
Still, there’s just no point to keep looking back. I have a work to do, a calling to fulfill. Maybe, just maybe, I traveled through hell itself to prove to someone else who might be going through hell themselves, that there IS a way out. And what a way it is!
If you find yourself wondering about your tomorrows, about your eternity, I can direct you to the One who died for you. He died and rose again, having paid the ultimate sin-debt “in your place”, so that you wouldn’t have to pay it yourself.
His Name is Jesus! And He loves you so much that He came, God in the flesh, and walk among His own creation to do what we would never have the power to do.
Give your life to Him, and see what true peace is like. You don’t have to try to keep up with the big dogs. Trust Him, turn your heart over to Him, seek out water in which to be baptized in, and then tarry for the Holy Ghost, which will surely come.
Now THAT, my friends, is what it’s like to TRULY LIVE!