Six months ago, Yaz came to live with us.

He was a mystery mutt with no history of his previous two years on this earth. All we knew was that he had been living from paw to muzzle on the streets before he landed in an animal rescue.

Yaz was afraid of everything and everybody. His tail was tucked between his legs 24/7; he cowered pitifully at every noise and fled in terror from each person or animal we encountered on our neighborhood walks.

The poor little fellow never barked, wouldn’t fetch or play with toys and hid his food. He looked totally confused when a chew bone was placed before him, like what in the world am I supposed to do with this?

Yaz didn’t seem like a real dog. At least, no dog I’d ever known. I began thinking of him as a sort of wooden Pinocchio puppet who wanted to be real but didn’t know how.

But something remarkable began to happen.

The more time Yaz spent basking in my unconditional love and affirming attention, the more secure he seemed to feel and the more doglike he became. He began to bloom in his magnificent dogginess before my eyes. After Yaz gradually morphed into the audacious creature he was meant to be.

Today, when he chases squirrels, fetches Mr. Squeaky and holds his spindly little tail erect, I proudly announce to passers-by, “Yaz is a real dog now.”

And sometimes on those days when I’m busting my buttons over how incredible his transformation is, I’ll think, “Wow—I wonder if Papa God is saying the same thing about me. I hope He is. I want so desperately to be a REAL Christ-reflector, yet so often I feel like I’m just a wooden imitation.”

But you know what? The more time I spend basking in His unconditional love and affirming attention, the more secure I feel and the more Christlike I become.

It’s probably going to take thousands more hours of training, but one day I’m determined to become the real deal.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you,” (Psalm 32:8, NIV).