“The watch dog fights while the wild dog runs away.”
When danger confronts a wild dog, the wild dog runs away. It’s not tied to the home because in its heart, it doesn’t have one; it’s tied solely to its own self-interests.
When danger confronts a watch dog, the watch dog doubles down, as if its life depends upon protecting the home, because it does. It has no other home, no other place to go to. The watch dog’s self-interests are tied to the home, and it will fight or die.
In your heart, in regards to your family and marriage, which kind of dog are you?
We so value our independence that it’s easy to slip into the heart of a “wild dog” even while living the life of a watch dog. It’s possible to have a home but not treat it as a home. Some people can treat their marriage and family as a hindrance, or shackles, even a prison. They secretly want to get out, but are too ashamed to admit it, so they sleep in a home, but their heart roams far and wide. Some “wild dogs” have confessed to me that they have prayed for years that their spouse would have an affair so that they would be free to leave.
A watch dog senses danger and flies into action. He/she doesn’t play with danger, doesn’t welcome danger, is singularly focused on scaring away the danger as soon as it’s seen, and if the danger doesn’t leave, he/she will fight it. The heart of a watch dog is tied to its home.
When you see distance coming in your marriage, do you call it out and fight it, or do you seek to find enjoyment and amusement outside the marriage? If you do the latter, you’re a wild dog.
When you feel tired or discouraged, do your fantasies roam to another life, dreaming of being married to another person in another house? If so, your heart is that of a wild dog.
When anything threatens your marriage—another affection, another relationship, a busy schedule, a job, you name it—do you stand up and fight, do you say, “This can’t last,” even if you know those words will launch a battle? If so, you have the heart of a watch dog.
Where is your heart? Do you long to be free, but are too ashamed to leave? You must be miserable indeed. You have the constrictions of a watch dog, but the heart of a wild dog, and that’s as frustrating a life as anyone can live. The answer can’t be, if you’re a Christian, to become a wild dog in fact; it’s to humbly repent and seek the heart of a watch dog, someone who is newly refocused on and reinvested in their home.
There is no satisfaction in someone who is living a watch dog life with a wild dog heart. You can’t be satisfied, as the satisfaction you seek—being free from your home—by definition requires the destruction of your home. No true watch dog could take joy in that outcome. You need a change of heart.
My wife and I recently heard yet another story about a man who had a middle-aged affair, fathered a daughter outside of wedlock, but eventually stayed with his wife. The mistress never got remarried and the father of her child actually loved his wife heroically through a later life medical situation.
Why do I tell that story? A watch dog got to “taste” the wild dog life, but then found it so wanting he returned to the watch dog life, even when it was less pleasant and more demanding. When you’re a watch dog dreaming of the wild dog life, you romanticize it. You idealize it. You see the pleasure, but not the pain. You see the freedom, but not the loneliness and alienation. You see the opportunities, but not the isolation.
If you are living a watch dog life, ask God for a new watch dog heart. Fight for your marriage. Fight for your home. Be fully, 100% invested in it. Make it so dear to your soul that you wouldn’t leave your home if it was surrounded by the entire Russian military.
If you have a wild dog heart, I guarantee you that your marriage will crumble. There are so many threats to a marriage nowadays—spiritually, relationally, sexually, financially, time-wise—that if we don’t fight to the death, the marriage will in fact die. Very, very few couples have the luxury of having a “take it or leave it” attitude toward their marriage. And who would want to be in a marriage like that, anyway?
No, the only path to true satisfaction if you’re living a watch dog life is to cultivate a watch dog’s heart.
How, you might ask?
Start fighting, and keep fighting. Refuse any thought of any other solution than victory. The heart follows commitment. Confront issues as they arise.
“But I already have done all that!” some might say, “and the fantasies are so much sweeter.”
A watch dog doesn’t just try. A watch dog starts and never stops. He or she is too busy saving the home to even contemplate leaving it. Every second spent in contemplation of a different life is a second lost in improving your real life.
Never, ever believe the world’s lie that the watch dog lives a “small” life. It is much larger than the wild dog’s life, by far. If a man or woman ferociously fights for his or her marriage and each of their children, if he or she wages war against their own sin that seeks to destroy not just their own souls, but that of their home, they are fighting a cosmic battle over something that truly matters. It is a focused battle, but not a small or meaningless one.
What does the wild dog fight for? His or her own pleasure, happiness, and security. If you think you can be satisfied living for yourself, giving your entire life for the good of yourself, you haven’t contemplated either your own mortality (when your battle will surely and ultimately end) or the emptiness, indeed, the impossibility, of finding satisfaction in a self-centered life.
God has called us to be watch dogs in fact, so let’s be watch dogs in heart as well.
P.S. for singles:
I want to add a quick word for the singles out there—it’s certainly possible to have a “watch dog” heart when you live a single life. There is much fulfillment to be found if God has called you to the single life when you have a watch dog heart for your church and God’s mission and those friends with whom God has called you to be in community. This is a blog focused on marriage and family life, but in respecting that I’m not in any way undercutting your call in life or suggesting that the single life is a lesser life. I’m just trying to encourage those God has called into marriage and family life to be obediently and faithfully invested in that life.