Mojo & Me
What our black lab taught me about freedom in Christ

Robin Weidner, January 2009

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours… Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart.”
John Grogan, Marley & Me

In June of 2006, I was walking beside the river in our town praying for my husband, Dave. In times like these, (if I listen very carefully) I sometimes feel like there’s a message for me coming directly from God. That day, the message was that we needed a dog. More specifically, my husband needed a dog.

We had been in counseling on and off for four years for Dave’s sexual addiction and my codependency. Although we were making progress, it seemed there was a measure of healing that was evading Dave.

But yet, something was nagging at me. Almost a year earlier, during one of Dave’s counseling sessions, the counselor had him go back to the last moment when he felt completely pure. As Dave closed his eyes and relaxed back in the chair, a scene flashed before him from when he was a young boy, running in a field with his dog Tarzan.

Suddenly moved to tears, I realized (with that special kind of knowledge that comes from the heart) that giving my husband a dog would help him reclaim what had been stolen from him in his early teens—his purity. I went home and told my husband I was game for us to open our home to a puppy.

Welcoming Mojo
Just a couple of months later we welcomed a sleepy-eyed black lab puppy. My husband gave me the honor of naming him, so I called him Mojo, thinking he would help Dave find his mojo…his groove. We came to affectionately call him Mojo the recovery puppy.

Now Mojo is two years old. We sometimes tease Dave that he loves Mojo more than any of us. Dave’s favorite moments in the week are when he takes Mojo out to a forest preserve and Mojo runs through marshland on one side of the path looking for birds, and then jumps into the water (swimming joyously) that weaves through the trees on the other side. 

When Dave comes home from work each night, I can hear him from my second floor office enthusiastically greeting Mojo. Mojo loves Dave fiercely. Dave says that Mojo is our best decision ever. But it’s not just us who benefit from Mojo—he lavishly loves every person that comes to our house.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Dave has made huge strides in the last two and a half years. In fact, he’s authored a CD series called “Pure in Heart—Biblical Principles for Restoring Purity.” The illustration on the cover is a little redheaded boy with his black lab. Mojo has given something precious to Dave—helping him recover something lost from his boyhood.

For Father’s Day 2008, I created a photo book for my husband called “Finding Mojo—a man and his dog running free.” The inscription on the front inside page reads…

“In July of 2006, David Weidner brought home a little black lab puppy. He gave his wife, Robin, the honor of naming him. After much collaboration with their children—Josh, Bekah and Caleb—Robin declared that his name would be Mojo, the recovery puppy.

It quickly became obvious that Dave was crazy about this new addition to the family. And Mojo was equally smitten by his new master. Soon they would begin making adventures—often times at the wetlands not too far away. This is a story of a man finding his mojo and a dog teaching a man how to run free again.”

Running Free
“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

This last summer, around the time Mojo turned two years old, I was wrestling with a topic I would speaking on soon at the Chicago Women’s Retreat at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. My class was called “Free!” I knew there was something important I was reaching for, but couldn’t find it.

One morning, Dave and I decided to take Mojo with us on a bike ride by the river near our house. (Dave holds a long leash while Mojo runs beside us.) Once we were there, Dave let Mojo off of the leash, and off he went, with a huge doggie grin on his face, alternating between jumping in and swimming, and running along the river.

It suddenly struck me that although Mojo was reveling in his freedom, he was keeping an eye on our whereabouts. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to be near us. Part of his joy was knowing that we were there. In fact, every so often he ran back to us and checked in (and received a treat!). If he were to run away from us, he would risk losing his true security—his relationship with us.

When I got home, I quickly ran upstairs, found my journal and started writing. “God delights in my freedom. He wants me to be in my element. But, I only have true freedom when I’m running free with God beside me. The truest freedom is found when I run in the commands of God.”

I realized that it wasn’t just Mojo that was free at the river. It was me. At the river, all the voices clamoring for attention in my head (trying to tell me who I am) disappeared. Only Jesus could tell me who I am. 

This led to me the story of the adulterous woman in John 8. I saw Jesus showing her that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought because they all had their own sins and heartaches (possibly the things Jesus wrote on the ground as he knelt beside her). It was only after he dismissed the crowd, that she could hear his voice (and his alone) setting her free from sin and shame, giving her worth and dignity. By letting Jesus tell her who she was, her heart ran free!

It occurs to me that this freedom ministers to many of the questions of our hearts...

  • Will I be alone? — Freedom from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15)
  • What do others think of me? — Freedom from being ruled by the expectations of others (Psalm 118:4-5)
  • Who can I count on? — Freedom to embrace our humanity and scorn the shame of our suffering (Ephesians 3:11-13)
  • Will I be successful? — Freedom from the slavery to the world’s standards (1 Corinthians 2:12)
  • Who will protect me? — Freedom from being ruled by our troubles (Psalm 25:16-18)
  • Am I enough? — The ability to give freely to others out of God’s goodness to us (Matthew 10:8, Galatians 5:13) 
More Lessons on Freedom
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12

Mojo has had another recent milestone. He now goes outside often without a leash. In fact, a few times Dave has worked out in the front yard, while Mojo has played in our unfenced backyard. This has given Mojo a new level of freedom.

What protects Mojo when he is outside without us hovering over him? His obedience. He is now accustomed to obeying. If I walk up and say, “sit,” he instinctively plops onto his rump. If he wanders near the next-door neighbor’s yard (with a tempting dish of cat food on their porch), if I say, “Stay away!” he turns the other direction. He knows the boundaries we’ve set for him.

Mojo’s training has now come far enough that he nearly always obeys whether he sees us or not. But he still has a heart of adventure, and he’ll test us from time to time, nudging over into the next yard, or playing a game of keep away when we’re ready for him to come in. (That’s why we stay close by when he’s off the leash.)

Bottom line, we so want Mojo to have a measure of freedom, that we’re willing to risk him running away. For me this is a scary thought, because early in our marriage, Missy—a purebred golden retriever Dave gave me as a Christmas gift—disappeared from our fenced back yard never to be found. I searched for her for weeks on end, completely devastated.

Mojo reminds me of God’s best gift of love to me—free will. My best protection in the freedom I’ve been given is a mature obedience that does what is right regardless of whether anyone else is looking. This generous gift also means that God has taken a risk of having his heart broken by me wandering away. I honor God by staying within the protective boundaries he has set within his word.

Sometimes, friends ask us why in the world we got a dog when we’re entering the empty nest years. After all, aren’t these supposed to be the years of freedom? Mojo reminds me that freedom isn’t about circumstances, but rather what goes on in the heart. Freedom isn’t about how much money is in the bank account, but rather how well we love those nearest us.

And at our house, whenever we wonder what it means to be free, we can look to a 90-lb. black lab whose biggest loves are people (and lots of them!) and running free by the river. 

Psalm 119:45, Galatians 5:1, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 3:12, Colossians 1:22, James 1:25, 1 Peter 2:16

Ask yourself:
What hinders me from “walking about in freedom” with God? Is it difficult to accept the freedom God gives me through Christ? If so, why?

Listen to God’s voice:

While a healthy fear of God protects us from evil, God affirms, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship…. “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.”  John 8: 15, 35-37

God gives us some of the most beautiful glimpses of freedom in nature. Picture a bird soaring in the sky, free to dive or rise wherever it chooses. Imagine a horse galloping through tall grass. Or, if you have a family dog, think back to a time when he or she ran wildly through the grass or snow.

Think of one or two practical steps that you can take today to “run in the path of God’s commands” with a free heart. For some, this might mean confession of burdens. For others, it might look like a step of faith toward some type of life change. Consider how you can more actively “walk about in freedom” with your God.

Join Secure in Heart
Want to receive new articles and updates about the Secure in Heart ministry?
Click Here

Pass it on!

  alcoholic parents, battling breast cancer, beauty of woman’s heart, becoming a Christian, being defensive, being loved by otherssecure in God, being vulnerable with others, carefree heart, Christian security, church study topics, comparing yourself to others, dealing with an eating disorder, deeper walk with God, dealing with losses, does prayer change God’s mind, doubting your salvation, embracing being single, emotional struggles of single women, emotions with my husband, Eve in the garden, faith during infertility, feeling invisible, forming a women's book group, God's love language, grieving process, hope during hardship, returning to God, handling stress, husband's struggle with pornography, identity in Christ, impurity Scriptures, verses on insecurity, losing a loved one, loving people, male insecurity, married to a sex addict, not liking my appearance, overcoming insecurity in Christ, perfectionism, Paula Wilkens, perseverance of Godovercoming shame of impurity, purity resources, response to NIU tragedy, Satan's attacks on women, Satan's whispers, secure in Christsecurity as a single woman, seeing little miracles, reaching out to your neighborhood, softening a hard heart, trusting God, God's goodness, understanding my worth, sexual addiction, unfulfilled desires, God's patience, wanting attention from men, welcoming Jesus, finding God in hard times, why women feel insecure, will I be alone, women's bible study, women's book club

© 2008 Secure in Heart. All rights reserved. Website Design by Visual i Design