Beagles are great dogs. They are bred to chase rabbits. But if there aren’t any rabbits around they will chase cats, cars, and boys. And if they are really bored Beagles have even been known to chase girls. Now the nice thing about beagles is that they are short and they stay short all their lives so they are just the right size for little boys. They are brown and black and white and they have long ears that flop when they run.
We wanted one. One day, driving the back roads in the Amish country of Ohio, we found one. We bought him from a nice Amish farmer so we named him Yoder. Yoder love to romp with the kids. We took him with us on our full-moon walks and we even took him fishing once. We had a day of it. He ran and romped and tumbled and hiked and played all day and then on the way home he fell asleep in the car on Kyle’s lap, spent from his exploits.
The sad fact is, days like that were rare for Yoder. Soon after the little dog came into our family, we moved to town and Yoder had to live on a chain in the back yard. We didn’t like the arrangement. It was a beautiful house in a very nice part of town and the neighbors were delightful people, but we longed for the country.
We were grateful for our home but we began to pray regularly for a place in the country. We recorded the request in a prayer journal we were keeping. In a few weeks our prayer was answered in a wonderful way. We were able to lease a nice old two-story farm house on a dead end road. The house rested in a valley.
Traffic was sparse. Unless someone was lost or coming for a visit, we had only two cars a day on our road. We had a daily visit from the mail man which was an event. And every day or two a man from the gas company would check the well.
We let Yoder off his chain and let him run. He climbed hills, chased rabbits, swam in the creek and followed the kids on their explorations. He was in Beagle heaven. If you had any imagination at all you could see the joy on his face. But his happy days would be few.
One rainy Saturday morning I was working at the study in town and I got a sad call from home. I came home right away. When I got out to the house the entire family was still in tears. Between sobs they told me what happened.
The man had come as usual to check the gas well. As he was leaving he looked over toward where the children were playing. I assume he was checking to see where they were and when he was satisfied all was clear he gunned the engine of his truck toward his next stop and drove away fast. But Yoder was still in the lane. The little dog was not visible over the hood of his truck.
He ran right over him in full view of the children. Kyle who was about eleven at the time ran to the lane, fell to his knees and gathered his little dog to his chest. Yoder looked up at Kyle, let out a weak yelp and died in his arms. Kyle carried him over and laid him down in the straw of the corn crib where he usually slept.
When I got home I wrapped him in a blanked and gathered him up and we all walked back to the creek and buried him there. The mint grows there and it smells sweet in the spring. Yonder liked to roll in it.
We all held hands and we each prayed and thanked God for bringing Yoder into our lives. Before we left we made up our mind that from now on no matter what other people called the creek, we were going to call it Yoder Creek. Then we walked back home.
We all sat in the house and hurt and remembered our little pet. His life was so short. It still hurts a little to think that Yoder lived most of his life confined to a little circle defined by the length of his chain and he really had only a few weeks of freedom his whole life.
This sad world is full of people running in circles. Their ability to experience the joys of life is limited by the chains of their own sin. I remember a man like that. He had four beautiful children and a loyal wife who would have opened her heart to him. But he never tossed a ball with his son. He never walked on the beach with one of his beautiful daughters on his arm. He never held his grandchildren in his arms or watch them play ball or took them fishing because he was confined by the chains of drunkenness and pride. On the day of his funeral I looked at his body and thought he seemed weary from straining toward life on the end of a chain but never really living.
I guess I’ve been that way myself more than I like to admit. Limited to a small circle defined by the length of my chain. That’s the way our adversary the Devil wants it. He delights in seeing us continually defeated by sin and burdened with guilt. Jesus said he is a thief who came to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to limit us by the chains of our unforgivness, lust, greed, gluttony, impure speech or other sins and he is looking forward to our company in hell when we die.
But Jesus came to set the captives free. I don’t know about you but I intend to enjoy my freedom. Jesus paid for it with his life and I like to imagine He smiles when he sees me running free.