A friend in Dallas is trying to give away her mother’s dog, a Blue Heeler, after a move left her without a place to keep it. In the spirit of full disclosure, she listed all the good and not-so-good traits of the animal, including a tendency to nip at people’s heels and a big problem with chasing cars.
When you own a Blue Heeler, especially in an urban setting, those are the things you come to expect. Blue Heelers are cattle dogs, selectively bred for their herding abilities. In fact, their official breed name is “Australian Cattle Dog;” they are called either “Blue Heelers” or “Red Heelers” based on their color and their tendency to nip at cattle’s heels.
I grew up on a ranch myself, and my nearby grandparents had a Blue Heeler. It was a stray, dumped by the “city folk” who would regularly drive out into the country to abandon unwanted pets. Take pity on one of these abandoned dogs by feeding it, and you instantly had a loyal new pet—whether you really wanted one or not. We called this particular stray “Dog,” simply because nobody bothered to come up with a name for it.
You might think that a cattle dog would be a welcomed help on a working cattle ranch. However, unlike some of our border-collie-toting neighbors, we never bothered to train our dogs to work. Our dogs were simply pets; their main job was simply to be petted, act happy to see us, and not drag too many dead things into the yard.
Dog, the Blue Heeler, seemed pretty happy with this arrangement, and we were happy enough with him—except for the car chasing. He would chase every single car that came down my grandparents' long, dusty driveway; chase them both coming and going. It wasn’t like he was attacking anyone or trying to guard the house; he just really liked chasing. My grandmother eventually got a remote-controlled shock collar to train him not to do so.
Shock a Blue Heeler a few times, and eventually they will learn not to chase cars. But they won’t stop wanting to chase cars; they are just afraid of the shock. They won’t be happy about it, because chasing things is part of their nature. It’s in their DNA.
Now, with the effort spent training them not to chase cars, you could instead teach a Blue Heeler how to herd cattle. Herding cattle is basically just controlled chasing: chasing the right things in the right direction at the right time. Cattle dogs are at their happiest when herding cattle; it fits their instincts better than chasing cars, and actually accomplishes something productive. Plus, after a long day herding cattle, the dogs are much less likely to chase a car, even if you’ve never done anything to train them about cars or even scolded them for doing so. They might still mess up (chase cars) occasionally, but they will also be fulfilling their purpose—as opposed to the dog who is only trained to not chase cars, and who never accomplishes anything.
OK, so here is the point of all this dog-training stuff: we humans are just like Blue Heelers. We each have a natural tendency to do certain things, and we do not feel happy or fulfilled unless we are doing them. Just like dogs, though, we often try to fulfill those longings by chasing entirely the wrong things.
For example, many guys have a longing to rescue the princess: to honor and protect and sacrifice self for beauty, and to have that beauty love and honor them in return. But many or most find themselves chasing after a mere fantasy of that, which is so much easier to obtain but totally void of fulfillment. Or you may long to battle the forces of evil, to restore what is broken and push back the darkness with light—but instead battle for market share, or find this weird significance in winning against “evil” sports teams from other cities.
We’re chasing the wrong things, and our hearts know it deep down. We try to stop doing what we know is wrong, disciplining ourselves in the art of self-denial—and fail, or are at best left miserable, because we are fighting against what we were made for. We need not restraint, but redirection. The best way to stop chasing cars is to chase after the work of God instead.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of our heart. – Psalm 37:4
The desires of your heart are good things, and are meant to be fulfilled. But let’s be honest: our own way of doing things has not been very fulfilling, and our self-help obedience schools have mostly taught us regret. It’s time to let God teach us some new tricks.