My family and I lost our twelve year old golden retriever, Tara, this past week. Like any dog, she could not speak; but upon reflection, I realize there is a lot we can learn from her.
Tara was a big dog in a small house. She was almost always underfoot. If she wasn’t underfoot, she was begging food. She always had to go out at the worst times. There were things she did that just seemed annoying. All-in-all, though, those things pale now in comparison to what she was. And if more people were like her, the world would be a better place.
She loved everyone always, Matthew 5:44; Acts 10:34, truly and without hypocrisy, Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 1:22. At times, brethren have trouble loving each other at all, much less without hypocrisy. As we know, love means nothing unless put into actions. Tara knew that instinctively. She always wanted to see whoever came to the door. In fact, she just had to greet them. And for a short time once they were in the house, she had to be with them. She loved being with people. Wherever in the house the family was, she had to be, too. In fact, she always had to lay on her bed in front of my dresser even when I was trying to get into it. I am reminded of those early Christians who truly just had to to be with each other, Acts 2:46. Surely there were times when Tara did not want to get up and greet someone, but she did. She did not make excuses, Luke 14:18, Ephesians 4:16 (We can’t Hebrews 10:24 if we make excuses not to come together). The encouragement she gave just by greeting us when we came home sometimes was just what was needed, Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Tara also was not at all phased by her having to submit and be wholly dependent on us for all her needs, James 1:17; James 4:7. Often, we say we submit to God, then invent our own ways of interpreting His word. We might be willing to submit ourselves to God but then do not submit to each other, Ephesians 5:21. With submission comes willing humility, Titus 3:2. Tara was perfectly content to lay on the floor at our feet.
As I look at the things that were seemingly so bothersome about Tara while she was here, I realize that I would gladly put up with those things again if she were here. Was I just picking at her, after all? Galatians 5:15 puts me in mind of those who are continually looking for fault in others, who do not assume the best even of their own brethren. No matter if we lost patience with Tara, she always seemed to forgive us, Colossians 3:13. If only we all had that ability to be so forgiving, Matthew 6:15.
We realize that we took Tara for granted, as we often do with our brethren and families. Paul used the illustration of the body to tell us that we are not just those with “like precious faith” but that we are part of each other, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, joined to each other, Acts 9:26. And if you have ever lost one who was dear to you, you know it is like losing a part of your own body. Do we feel that way about our brethren? People who are just like us. They are striving to do the will of God to the best of their ability as human beings. We all fall short at times and need encouragement and patience from others, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
As we suffer the loss of what feels like a part of our own body, we realize that this deep ache is a direct result of the sin in the world (see sermon on this site by Jeff Smelser entitled “The Decay of Sin”, 2009). Death is a consequence of the action of sin, Romans 5:12. Were there no sin, there would be no death. Do we equate this feeling of pain in loss with our attitude toward sin? Can we imagine that our sins have caused such pain as this to our Father in heaven? If we wish the pain of loss would go away, do we also strive to put away the sin that causes pain to others in this life and to God, sin that caused Jesus to go to the cross? How can we who are dead to sin live any longer in it? Romans 6:2.
I also believe that as we mourn loss in our lives, God mourns with us. How else would Paul say in Romans 12:15, “…weep with those who weep”? Our Lord feels our pain. He cares for us. Were it not for this care, He would not have formulated before the foundation of the world a way for our reconciliation to Him. And as we miss our Tara, we long for the joy of heaven, Romans 8:22-3.
We may not see our beloved pet again, but we look forward to the time when all of God’s singers get home, when we see our lost loved ones again with our Father and our Saviour, when we can rejoice that we have run the race (1 Corinthians 9:24-5) and received the crown of life that our Father has for each one of us who is obedient, James 1:12. As the memory of Tara encourages my family, I want to encourage you as Paul did in Philippians 3:12, “Press on”.