Recently we were driving along a quiet country road, with just one car ahead of us and in front of them a wide open expanse leading to our destination. To our right was a huge area of dunes, beloved by dog walkers. In relaxed mood, we were startled and alarmed to see, quite unexpectedly, a dog rush from the cover of the grass and straight into the road just in front of the car we were following.

It was one of those heart-stopping moments. I love all animals with a passion and was horrified at the drama that looked likely to unfold, already envisaging the chaos and pain that was about to be played out. It seemed impossible for anything other than the dog to be hit and badly injured or worse. Almost at the same moment, the owner, unattached lead dangling in his hand, also emerged, every bit of their body language exuding distress and fear.

As it happened, this story, to my vast relief, had a happy ending. Somehow the dog and car managed to avoid each other, the dog scampering away as the owner looked apologetically at the car driver whose heart rate must surely have been alarmingly high.

Once I had recovered from the "might have been", I reflected on the potential cost of that dog's freedom. For him or her to enjoy the unfettered joy of running over the sand and grass, being all that they could be, the lead had to be undone. That very action brought risk - not just to the dog, but to others like that unwitting driver, who could have suffered immensely from the repercussions of that very running free. The owner's choice to give the dog the freedom run the risk too of their pain as the dog made choices which had disastrous results.

Now any metaphor has its limits. However it seems to me there is something here to ponder on about our own free will. I don't have an answer to the appalling suffering in our world any more than anyone else does. Yet I do know that our freedom as human beings is part of who we really are. For God to keep humanity, as it were, on a leash would diminish us beyond recognition. Yes, it might make things safer and certainly remove the unspeakable anguish that I believe God feels over the repercussions of our choices which damage and hurt one another. Yet at what cost?

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