This is a snapshot of my guide dog, McQueen, when he was just a “little” puppy. You could say it is his baby picture. (Yes, I have a baby picture of McQueen. No, I don’t have a lock of his baby hair; I get plenty of hair every time I groom him.) But notice how cute he was: almost squeezable, teddy-bear-like. Would you believe at that stage in McQueen’s development, CUTENESS was one of the only things going for him? I heard that after his workouts he would plop down on the floor like a bear rug (which he still does) and drink water from his doggy dish—poor thing. At that stage in life, McQueen wasn’t guiding people anywhere; he wasn’t aware of the dangers of traffic; he didn’t respond to guide work commands like “forward”, “straight”, “left”, “right”, “halt”, “steady.” As a puppy, all McQueen had was cuteness and POTENTIAL.
Today, McQueen is still very cute. But he is also very PRODUCTIVE. Like every guide dog, he is admired for his usefulness and brains when it comes to guide work. He is praised for his loyalty and service to his master (me).
What made the difference between having POTENTIAL and being PRODUCTIVE? For the first two years of McQueen’s life he had love and training poured into him.
Most of that time was spent with puppy raisers who loved him (they provided for him, protected him, and praised him while he was growing). While caring for him the puppy raisers began teaching him obedience. The love that was shown became the motivation for McQueen to learn obedience. He still thrives on praise and knowing he is doing a good job. The puppy raisers were given a book as thick as the Bible on various obedience commands they needed to teach McQueen. Every day (even now) McQueen went through simple obedience training like “sit”, “down”, “sit”, “down”, “sit”, “stay”, “down”, “sit”, “stay”, “come”, “stand”, “sit”, “Good Boy!” (Pat on the head—McQueen goes wild! And then he hears, “sit”, and calms right back down again.) Once he mastered the simple obedience commands (known as Juno) then McQueen could go back to the Guide Dogs of the Desert School for specific guide work training with a qualified trainer. McQueen learned simple obedience and at a year and a half he entered Guide Dog “college.”
There are so many parallels here to child rearing and life—I hope you are catching them! My dog started out with POTENTIAL and because of obedience training and love became PRODUCTIVE.
One reason our nation is in a mess with no regard for educational, governmental, or church authority (let alone God’s authority) is because the home is a mess. Parents may be “loving” their children and not “training” them in matters of simple obedience. Or, parents are “training” their children without the “love” aspect. Remember with McQueen, the puppy raiser’s providing, protecting, and praising motivated him to learn obedience. Without the love aspect McQueen would have been a sad puppy dog. And, without the training aspect McQueen would just be another spoiled pet. Ouch! I am writing this analogy to sharpen my own parenting skills and that last one hurt.
When considering what they do to train guide dogs we can learn a lot about training children. But keep in mind, training service animals is a worthy and noble cause that helps hundreds of blind people and people with PTSD, diabetes, epilepsy, etc., but training our children right impacts whole communities, schools, churches, nations, and the world for generations to come.
Pretty much the only commandment given to children in the New Testament is “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3.
Dear friend, if your child will not obey YOU, they will not obey their teacher at school, the police officer, their boss at work, or God. That is a dangerous place to be because the main reason there is anybody with authority is because God ordained authority for our good. If you, as a parent, do not expect your child to obey authority, then you are holding them back from great things. The teacher educates, the police officer protects, the boss writes your paycheck, and God saves your soul. To rebel against these is to ruin your potential. And, to teach our children to rebel against these authorities will ruin their potential.
One thing I have learned from my guide dog, McQueen comes from his training:
OBEDIENCE IS THE FOUNDATION OF USEFULNESS.
If McQueen never learned to obey he would have been a drain on our family (like our other mutt), instead of a productive service dog.
Let me share a breath of fresh air with you, my friend. God has given you the authority to expect obedience from your child. But He has also given you the tools for training and they are found in the Bible. If you need encouragement you are always welcome to come to church and be refreshed with other parents trying to raise their kids (there is strength in numbers).
Keep checking this page for more insights on how to train your child to obey, learned from the life of McQueen and the Word of God.
I don’t know how you get through your day, but I can navigate any day with my God and 80 pounds of Chocolate! Yes, you read it right! I can get through any day walking with God and 80 pounds of Chocolate. Of course, I am referring to the God of the Bible and my Guide Dog, my Chocolate English Lab, McQueen.
Visual impairment is a challenge I have had to deal with for all my life. Kjers Optic Neuropathy is a hereditary degenerative eye condition that makes me very near sighted. I am considered legally blind (although, you wouldn’t be able to tell it by looking at me). Because the problem lies in my optic nerve and not the eye ball itself glasses do not correct my vision. And so, my whole life I have learned coping mechanisms to try to make me look and act “normal.” I look people in the general vicinity of their eye balls when in conversation. I comment on paintings in waiting rooms. I always drive the speed limit. (Just kidding—I don’t drive.)
Through the years, concerned people have developed technologies that have greatly improved the safety, independence, and overall quality of life of the visually impaired. Tools such as the white cane, braille, speech to text and voice over, and bump dots have aided people who are blind to achieve great things—or some semblance of “normalcy.”
For the first three decades of my life I tried my hardest to just fit in, to look “normal.” I used magnifiers from time to time, but, other than that, I never fully embraced the tools for the blind. The heart of the problem was a problem of my heart—I wasn’t happy with the way God made me. I wasn’t honest about who I am. I got tired of the struggle of not being “sighted” and not being “blind.” I had to acknowledged that I was a person that was blind and that God had a plan for me. Once I was honest about who I was I could accept the tools God had graciously inspired to help me gracefully live my life for His glory.
In April of 2016 I began my crash course in Orientation and Mobility with a local O & M Instructor. The white cane and I became well acquainted over a year’s period of time. And then, I got a call from Guide Dogs of the Desert in Palm Springs, California. They had a match for me. In April of 2017, I navigated my way through Denver International Airport with a white cane to go to Palm Springs. A month later, I navigated my way back through DIA with McQueen, my 80 pounds of Chocolate, to go back home.
McQueen has been a wonderful guide, companion, assistant “pastor”, and friend. He is not a tool but a living, breathing creature that God has gifted to guide me through my days. In months to come I will post “Lessons from McQueen” as illustrative anecdotes on living life for God. But for starters, here are a few thoughts from my personal journey:
1. We all need to be honest about who we are. Just like I was born with a physical hereditary eye condition, we all have been born with a spiritual hereditary condition.
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
Romans 5:12 “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”
2. We all need to accept what God has graciously provided for us to have a grace filled life. Just as I had to accept the help offered me for my physical limitations, we all must accept God’s gift for our spiritual limitations.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
3. We all must follow our Guide—the Word of God.
John 5:39 “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
2 Timothy 3:15-17 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
I told you that I can get through any day with my God and 80 pounds of Chocolate. Good news! You can navigate through life, too! With Christ as your Saviour and God’s Word as your Guide you can make it through any day for ever!