Just a few days before Christmas, I laid to rest our family dog of nearly eighteen years. While no one would ever classify me as an animal lover with the likes of Steve Irwin, Saydee certainly held a special place in my heart. She came into our lives at a time when Jeanne and I had lost our first child, and she instantly filled a painful void. She totally shifted our home into a whole new dimension of living. Over the years, our home became her home, and the rest of us were simply privileged to live there. I have never seen a dog try as hard as she tried to be a human being, but her O.C.D., type-A personality made her a perfect match for our family. Saydee was very intelligent and easily mastered the most difficult of tasks. However, while she may have been a teachable student, I stand amazed today as I reflect on all the valuable lessons she taught me about life. While her name will never be written in canine history, Saydee truly lived up to the old adage and became the best of friend to me.
While I am always filled with wide-eyed wonder when I read the miracles in Scripture, few have intrigued me as much as the story found in Numbers 22. The greedy and disobedient prophet Balaam moves against the will of God when the donkey he is riding suddenly attempts to turn from the path they are traveling. Balaam becomes angry with the donkey, but he is unable to see what his donkey was able to see; an angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword. We are then told, “And the Lord opened the mouth” of the donkey and she spoke to Balaam. The part of the story that amazes me most is the fact Balaam was not startled that a donkey spoke! Keep in mind, this was long before the world had ever heard of Mr. Ed or Scooby-Doo. However, through this miraculous event, the donkey had saved the life of Balaam. It is interesting to consider the many means God has used to speak to humanity. Whether it was a burning bush for Moses, the whirlwind for Job, or the great fish for Jonah, observant eyes and attentive ears never lack “hearing” from God. In fact, Romans 1 declares that God speaks so powerfully even in creation “…that they are without excuse” who never acknowledge God in their life. God is forever speaking to man, but the question to be asked is just how well is man listening? I want to share with you how God used a dog to speak valuable lessons that will forever impact my life.
From a dog, I learned the beauty of unconditional love. How rare are the moments in life where we can be seen at our worst and yet still be perceived for the best in us. Whether your hair is combed or your teeth brushed, or whether you are physically large or small; a dog still comes running with sparkling eyes and a wagging tail. A dog seems to live its life not only with the aim to please, but with the goal of bestowing its heart. One of my favorite verses about Jesus is John 13:1, “…having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” Through disappointment, denial, and desertion, Jesus always gives a love that is undeserved and unending. A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Perfect love knows no because.” Love based on a “because” will never be secure because it leaves little room for failure or change. Delilah loved Samson because of his secret strength, but when his strength was gone, so was Delilah. Amnon loved Tamar because of her purity, but when her purity was taken, “Amnon hated her exceedingly.” A crowd of disciples followed Jesus when He provided food miraculously, but when the miracle stopped, “…many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” A love which holds stipulations is a love always dependent on stimulations. Genuine love steadfastly hopes for the best and holds out for the best in its recipient. If only we were truly as wonderful as our dog thinks we are!
From a dog, I learned the bond of unwavering loyalty. It has been said that a faithful dog asks no higher privilege than to accompany its master to guard against danger and to fight his enemies. Every bark that is aimed at approaching strangers is out of fierce patriotism. However, the true test of a dog’s allegiance is discovered when the front door is left open by accident. It is in such a moment that the selfishness or surrender of the dog’s heart is revealed. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other…” One of the top reasons more Christians do not live victoriously and struggle in the mire of mediocrity is because of divided loyalty. Oswald Chambers said, “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ.” Solomon loved God, but his downfall came when he loved women just as much. Demas walked with the Lord, but his downfall came when he walked closer with the world. Jesus does not demand merely a place in our life. Jesus demands “that in all things He might have the preeminence.” It is difficult for a man to walk far with Jesus whose heart is torn between two different directions. Oh, for the faithfulness of a dog who will be yours to the very last beat of its heart.
From a dog, I learned the benefit of unselfish living. A dog is one of the few things on earth that will love you more than you love yourself. They will serve us for scraps, kiss the hand that has just offered discipline, and even return the rock you threw at him. A dog will you give you their absolute all because a dog just simply wants to please its master. Jesus said in John 8:29, “…I do always those things that please Him (God).” Such a thought would seem impossible to achieve for most people. We have a tendency to think the only way to please God is through some extraordinary service or by making some extravagant sacrifice. However, Hebrews 11:6 makes it clear, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him…” Our trust of God brings an utter thrill to His heart. We are told “Abraham believed God…and he was called the friend of God.” Paul said, “I believe God,” and the Lord safely carried him through the storm. When a man’s life pleases the Lord, the Lord is pleased to walk intimately with that man. Adrian Rogers said, “When you displease God, it doesn’t matter who else you please. But, when you please God, it doesn’t matter who else you displease.” Even a dog reserves the strongest wag of its tail upon seeing a smile on its master’s face.
When God created animals on the sixth day, the Bible says, “…and God saw that it was good.” It was good to God, but it was good for us. I will truly miss Saydee. I will miss her head lying across my ankles while I study. I will miss her waiting on a peppermint when I come home in dress clothes. I will miss her waiting patiently to finish off my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at night. I was blessed to have her. While Saydee may not be recorded in the annals of canine history as the smartest dog to have ever lived, she sure was able to teach this old dog a few new tricks!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2012 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.