This picture came to me in an email last week from a magazine I subscribe to. It just about broke my heart. But it also reminded me of what’s really important too.
This scene was captured just two weeks ago at the funeral of Petty Officer 1st Class Jon T. Tumilson who was one of 30 American troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, who were killed when a Taliban insurgent downed a Chinook helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade on Aug. 6, 2011. Lisa Pembleton took the photo and posted it on her Facebook page in memory of her cousin.
What captured my heart were two words: loyalty and grief.
Even in death, Hawkeye, Tumilson’s cherished black Lab, demonstrated his undying loyalty as he lay faithfully by the side of his fallen master. Dogs grieve too. I don’t know about other animals, because my experience has been with dogs, but trust me . . . they grieve.
In my mind, there are few things that communicate loyalty and devotion more than a faithful dog. Hence, the royal description, of “man’s best friend.”
I’ve often said that someday I’m going to write a book about what my dogs have taught me about God. Not only do I think my dogs would wage their tails in playful agreement, but I think God would be delighted as well. There is so much in our world that speaks to the presence of our awesome God if we would just take the time to stop, look, and listen.
Hawkeye’s display of unflinching loyalty is obvious even to the casual viewer. But God’s abiding loyalty is frequently overlooked, or worse, dismissed. And for those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers, the call is to be loyal to Him who is always faithful.
Semper Fidelis is the motto for the U.S. Marine Corps. It’s Latin for “always faithful.” While I doubt Hawkeye was fluent in Latin and I know he wasn’t a member of The Core, it’s clear that he got the concept and modeled it faithfully. But it didn’t originate with him. The One who created him instilled faithfulness in him for us to witness in canine form. God is the originator, the architect who epitomizes loyalty and faithfulness.
Jesus’ last words to His 12 most loyal followers were: “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Throughout the pages of Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, the reassuring refrain that brings comfort, dispels discouragement, musters courage, and spawns loyalty in the followers of God is the promise of His faithfulness–His loyal presence with and for those He loves:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord our God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)
“. . . because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:5,6)
The loyalty of a faithful dog is a touching reminder of “how much more” the loyalty of our faithful God is our ultimate source of hope, comfort, strength and security through any adversity that we face.
Now it’s your turn. Many of you have witnessed loyalty. We’d love to hear your story of how God’s loyalty has touched your life? What or who did He use? Maybe it was a long time ago? Maybe it was just recently? When has He made His presence known to you in desperate times, whispering to you “I’m here. I’m always faithful?”