My poodle, C.J., thinks he’s Hank the Cowdog. Every time I let him outside without a leash, he runs like a bat out of Hades toward our neighbor’s cattle. One of these days, if we’re not careful, he’s gonna get gored or squished. That’s why, every time I take him out, I tether him—either to a leash or a lead line.

He hates the lead line. It’s in a lovely, shady part of the yard, with lots of trees and squirrels and cardinals to keep him company. I always make sure he has plenty of water, and sometimes I give him a toy or a bone to chew on. It’s not a bad life. But it never fails; every time I tether him to that line, he whines and cries and balks like I’ve scalped him and left him for the buzzards.

But he loves his leash! Each time he sees me grab the red-handled, retractable cord, he shakes with joy. He jumps, his tail wags, and I have to calm him down to clip it to his collar. We walk outside, and he races like the wind until his line runs out. Then he sprints another direction. At some point he’ll prance back to me, tail wagging, as if to say, “I’m having a Brobdingnagian time!” (Poodles are very smart and have a colossal vocabulary.)

Sometimes I take him with me to sit by the pond or on the patio. I’ll stretch out my legs and hold his leash handle while he sniffs around. Eventually, he’ll lay at my feet, happy as a grub in a grass crop. As much as he loves cows . . . as much as he loves to run . . . he loves me more. That’s why he hates the lead line, but adores the leash. He wants to be close to me.

Yesterday, as I sat in my yard with C.J. playing at my feet, I thought of the old hymn, Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson. The final verse says:

Oh to grace, how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,

 Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above. (Baptist Hymnal, 1991)

In that stanza, Robinson said, “Lord, tie me to you, so I don’t bolt from Your presence. I tend to run to danger, but I don’t want to. Keep me safe; keep me close to You.”

God uses a leash, not a lead line. He never ties us up and leaves us; His tether is always to Himself. But it’s a voluntary tether. He won’t force us to be fettered to Him. He lets us make the choice; stay close to Him, or run into a stampede.

My poodle has more sense than I do. When given the choice, he’ll choose the leash every time. I sometimes choose to run from God, and that rarely—okay, never—works out well for me. Like Robinson, I need God’s gracious fetter to keep me close, keep me safe, keep me in the circumference of His love.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.