In any event, I noticed him about the same time he noticed me. As he came down the driveway of the house where he apparently resides, my initial response was to freeze. He was clearly growling in order to let me know that he did not know who I was and that I was not welcome on his turf.
I will not lie. I was overcome with an irresistible desire to turn and run! But I fought the urge to do so and decided to call his bluff. As he approached me, I boldly returned the favor. Only, rather than growling at him, I held out my hand, snapping my fingers and speaking to him in a friendly, soothing, and welcoming manner.
It worked. He soon ceased his aggressive behavior and adopted a more conciliatory manner. When we finally came face to face, I reached out and petted him and talked to him in a way that let him know I was pleased to see him. In short order, we had become friends, and he walked along with me for a short while before veering off to make what appeared to be his regular patrol of his domain.
As I walked on, I remembered why I was so guarded around German Shepherds. As a child, I loved to go and play at my friend’s house. But between his house and mine, a distance of some three to four miles, was a house where an enormous specimen of this very breed resided.
Simply put, if I wanted to see my friend, I had to pass by this house on my bike. And in the process, I had to encounter this terrifying beast. The best approach, developed over time, was to get a good start from about a quarter of a mile away and peddle with all my might in order to gain as much speed as possible and zoom past the monster before it had a chance to intercept and accost me.
Even as I write this, my palms are sweating as I recall how close that colossal creature came at times to my legs as I furiously peddled for my life!
All of which raises the question as to what changed along the way… Why was I so deathly afraid of a dog fifty years ago and not now? And the answer is that I, and not the dog, am the one who changed! Rather than respond in fear and panic at the aggressive approach of a German Shepherd, I now respond with boldness and confidence, for I no longer fear the encounter.
Granted, I am now twice as tall and a full hundred and fifty pounds heavier than I was back in the day. If push came to shove, I could likely hold my own against a dog attack, at least long enough until help arrived.
But more to the point, while I am no “Dog Whisperer”, I have now reached the point that I know most dogs can be managed simply by the way one responds to them. If you show fear in response to their aggression, they are only encouraged. By contrast, if you boldly go up to them and show them that you are not scared, you largely call their bluff.
And besides, even if this approach does not work, whenever I walk, I make certain to carry on my person what I will say are appropriate defensive mechanisms. Being thusly equipped gives me all the added confidence I might otherwise need to survive any encounter with an aggressive animal.
I share these thoughts in light of what the Apostle Paul had to say in First Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 11, when he said: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
Whether it is facing up to a local dog while transiting past its turf or facing up to far more serious challenges to my person on the journey of life, it behooves me to live my life with confidence rather than fear!
Fear in the face of danger is the quality of childhood. Confidence in the face of challenge is the quality of adulthood. The former is more a reflection of a state of immaturity; whereas the latter is a more a reflection of a state of maturity!
And it for this reason that the Bible tells us (in Psalm 56, verse 1-4) that King David once prayed: “Be merciful to me, O God, for men are hounding me; all day they press their attack. My enemies pursue me all day long, for many proudly assail me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise - in God I trust. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
His words here reflect his earlier affirmation in Psalm 23, verse 4, when he famously said: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
David knew then what I have now come to know, and what the Apostle Paul also came to know (as he stated in Romans, chapter 8, verse 31), and that is this: “If God is for us, who can be against us?!”
Let’s face it… most dogs are far more bark than bite! But I, for one, have now lived long enough to learn that this is also true of the vast majority of other challenges I face. Given this, I could choose to live my life in fear; but I choose not to. I choose instead to live in the confidence that comes with knowing the Lord Himself has my back. And that is good enough for me!