Today the 2014 Iditarod begins in Anchorage, Alaska, a dogsled race that covers 975 miles of Alaska wilderness from Anchorage to Nome. It is a test of strength and endurance for both dogs and their mushers. There are check points along the way where their time is recorded because they do not all start together. The fastest time ever achieved in the race was 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds. This race is not for the faint of heart. The slowest time was 20 days, 15 hours, 2 minutes and 7 seconds. Your starting or finishing position in the race doesn’t matter. Just taking part in a race like that is a great achievement. Many people, like me, will be keeping track of the daily standings via the internet.
The reason this interests me is because, when we lived in the north years ago, we had a dog team of eight Siberian Huskies. They are beautiful dogs and easy to train. Every one of them had their own personality and that was the deciding factor in what position in the team they had.
I read a book about the Iditarod and I was amazed at the detail that goes into that race, boots for the dogs, medicine and food. There are veterinarians available in case of illness or injury. The clothing the mushers wear is crucial for their survival. If you lose a mitt it can mean your life, so mitts are kept safe on a musher’s harness. Every aspect of team and equipment is impeccably cared for.
We bought an entire litter of eight pups so all their training was up to us. Well, up to my husband, Dick, actually, and at time, His life depended on how well he taught them and how well they learned to obey. In the winter they were fed warm mash with a pound of lard thrown in for heat. The coldest trip they made was -52f.
A team consists of a lead dog, the most important one because their ability to obey your ‘gee’ or ‘haw’ command is vital. The wheel dog might be the last one in line but has the task of loosening the sled from the frozen ground when you start out by jumping side to side. The rest of the team harnessed together made a strong pulling force.
My best memory is from when our team was learning to work in harness. Dick ran ahead of them to get them going but when he turned to jump onto the sled, the dogs all followed him into the sled. What a jumbled mess of legs and harness. Eventually they learned how to pull at his command.
I can’t help relating this to our relationship with the Lord. He is patiently teaching us how to live, how to work as a team, how to obey Him and, in the end, someone’s eternal life may depend on how we respond to Him.
We have to learn to hear His voice and obey when He tells us to turn to the left or the right. We need to obey immediately when He says, “Stop!” We even have to wait patiently when He tells us we need to rest.
The teams involved in the Iditarod today have not entered the race on a whim. The dogs and their musher know and trust each other because they have spent a lot of time together. The musher looks after their team, physically and emotionally so the team can do its job. And that is to get to the end of the race no matter how grueling it my be. (It may be grueling this year because Alaska is having unusually warm weather.)
Each of us needs to keep a close check on our relationship with the Lord. Are we hearing His voice? Do we obey Him immediately? Do we partake of the spiritual food He provides for us? Do we allow Him to bind up our wounds or stop and patiently rest when He sees us getting weary? It’s not important to be first in line, only that we are where He wants us to be.
All of us on the Lord’s team have jobs related to our abilities. A lead dog, no matter how well trained and wise, would not make a good wheel dog, nor would a wheel dog make a good lead dog. The important thing is to be content where the Lord has placed us and finish well. Hebrews 12:1b: “Let us run with patience the race God has set before us. vs.2: And we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”