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I will walk about in freedom for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45

Gypsy, a furry wheat-colored collie, found herself mistress of several hundred acres of hill and wood, full of good things like rabbit trails and streams and intriguing burrows—and she delighted in it all. She was given a comfortable bed and good meals, so much so that perhaps she often took them for granted. Obligations there were few, and they were not heavy. She was, to be sure, supposed to worship her master and be right joyous to be with him. She also knew that she must not chase the chickens. While she must obey commands—to follow, to come, to lie down—there were no unreasonable demands, and no tricks. After all, to obey and to worship were natural to her dog nature.

There came a day when, as Gypsy was prowling on the far hill past the springhouse and pasture, two things simultaneously happened: The Master called her and a rabbit fled across the hill. Gypsy wheeled and raced toward the Master; then she stopped. It entered her mind that she didn’t have to obey. Perhaps the Master didn’t realize about that rabbit. Anyway, these were her acres. The rabbit was hers, really. Very probably, it was all nonsense, that story about everything belonging to the Master. How did she know that the food that appeared in the pan was put there by him, probably there was some natural explanation. She was a free dog and that was the end of it. These thoughts went through her mind swiftly as she stood irresolute. Again came the Master’s command; the rabbit crossed the top of the hill. Gypsy whirled and raced after the rabbit. She had made a choice, there was nothing to stop her.

Hours later she came home. She saw the Master waiting quietly for her, but she did not rush gladly, leaping and frisking, to him as she had always done. Something new came in to her demeanor: guilt. She crawled up to him like a snake on her belly. Undoubtedly she was penitent at that moment. But she had new knowledge—the knowledge of possibility of sin—and it was a thrill in her heart and a salt-taste in her mouth. Nevertheless, she was very obedient the next day and the day after. Eventually though, there was another rabbit—and she didn’t even hesitate. Soon it was the mere possibility of a rabbit. And then she dropped the rabbit thing altogether and went her own way.

The Master loved her still, but trusted her no more. In time she lived in a pen, and went for walks with a rope around her neck. All her real freedom was gone. But the Master gave her, from time to time, opportunities to obey again of her own free will. Had she chosen to obey she would once again have had perfect freedom to wander her hundreds of acres. But she always chose, if she were out of reach, to run away. The Master, knowing hunger would bring her back to her pen, let her run. He could have stopped her; the rifle that would have ended her rebellion with the crack of doom stood in the corner, but while she lived she might choose freedom and obedience.

One day during a journey by car, Gypsy was taken to the edge of the woods. Always Gypsy had limited her disobedience to the hills she knew. But now, coming back to the car, she suddenly felt the old thrill; she turned and fled. The Master called with a note of sharp urgency. Gypsy, her ears dulled to the meanings of the Master, continued her rush into the dark forest. After hours of search and calling, the Master called once more, and then sadly abandoned the lost one and drove home.

Gypsy, if she still lived, wandered in the woods and roads an outcast. She became dirty and matted with burrs. No doubt stones were thrown at her and she was often hungry; she had lost the way home. This was the way she chose on the Day of the Rabbit, and continued to choose until there was no more choosing.

“Without discipline, freedom doesn’t know what to do with itself.” – G.K. Chesterton

Edited by Lynn R. Buzzard

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.

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