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The Wisdom of the Dog Whisperer

Millions of television viewers around the world have watched a dog trainer by the name of Cesar Millan. Also known as the “dog whisperer,” Millan has the ability not only to rehabilitate troubled dogs, but to do so with a calmness that often amazes the animal’s owner.

Whether a dog is overly aggressive, excitable, or fearful, Millan seems to be able to talk the language of a dog. Pets that have been jumping up on visitors, lunging uncontrollably on a leash, or obsessively destroying things around the house learn to relax and behave in his presence.

The result is often dramatic. But Millan claims no miracles. Instead he uses his understanding of dog pack behavior. Millan explains that, among themselves, dogs instinctively test one another to determine exactly where they stand in the pack. With this insight, he teaches dog owners to establish themselves as their dog’s gentle but firm “pack leader.” The dog whisperer’s secret, therefore, lies not in magic but in his wisdom.

If wisdom is the ability to use knowledge to reach a desired goal, that’s what Millan does. He applies his understanding of why dogs act the way they do to overcome the problems that are keeping dogs and owners from enjoying one another.

In the process, I think Millan does something far more important than train dogs. It seems to me that in his wisdom he mirrors some of the ways our own Owner works with us. In fact, he may even help us to think of our God as the “people whisperer.”

The Gentleness of God’s Wisdom. Instead of shouting at us from the sky in frustrated anger, our God knows how to quietly and gently show up even in the earthquakes, winds, and fires of our lives. In response to our noisy, frantic, self-exhausting ways, our Lord says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV).

The prophet Elijah experienced the voice and gentle touch of God at one of the lowest moments of his life. Exhausted by his efforts to run from the death threats of Jezebel, queen of Israel, Elijah came to the point of feeling so alone and so disillusioned that he wanted to die (1 Kings 19:4). Those feelings of despair, however, gave God an opportunity to show His wisdom.

First, God worked with Elijah’s body. The Lord renewed His servant’s physical strength by giving him sleep, food, and water (19:5-8). Then God renewed Elijah’s spiritual perspective by speaking to him not in a howling wind, a rumbling earthquake, or a roaring fire, but in “a gentle whisper” (19:9-12 NIV).

The Wisdom of God’s Gentleness. What Elijah heard in the calmness of God’s voice was also experienced by other men and women of the Bible. Troubled people like Abraham, Job, Ruth, Rahab, Joseph, and the apostle Paul all discovered that, even in their worst problems, God was gently using the voice of His wisdom to get their attention, surrender, and trust.

One of those persons was Agur. Today he is quoted by readers of Proverbs as an exceptionally wise man (30:8-9). Agur, however, had a different view of himself. Overwhelmed by how foolish he felt in the presence of his Creator, Agur wrote, “Surely I am more stupid than any man, and do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom nor have knowledge of the Holy One” (30:2-3 NKJV). One version of the Bible translates Agur as saying, “I am too stupid to be human, and I lack common sense” (30:2 NLT).

Agur apparently felt “clueless” in his own understanding after listening to what his Creator was quietly saying to him through the natural world around him (30:4).

The Goal of God’s Wisdom. By seeing and admitting what he couldn’t understand on his own, Agur came to the place of wanting to treasure every word of God more than his own understanding (30:5-6).

So the wise man prayed, “Two things I request of You (deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (30:7-9 NKJV).

By reminding us that we are not our own, Agur brings the wisdom of the dog whisperer to a much higher level. Just as a dog needs to understand where it stands in relation to its pack leader, so we need to understand exactly where we are in relation to our own Owner, Provider, and Protector.

Father in heaven, we acknowledge with Your servant Agur that sometimes we feel even less than human in our understanding. Please help us in this moment to trust and act in a way that reflects the calmness of Your presence, the peace of knowing that You understand, and the anticipation of being with You in Your house forever. —Mart De Haan

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