“Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.” Luke 7:2-3 ESV
Your heart is a treasure chest. There are many things in our heart that prove what we value. Sometimes we do not know their true value until they are gone. What and who is valuable to us is something we hold close. Value is also what we place great worth on, such as integrity, morality, family and other things that make up the foundations that we stand on. When those things and/ or people we value are lost, stolen or pass away, it leaves a very big hole in our hearts.
Recently we had to put down our dog Bandit. We bought Bandit as a birthday present for my daughter when she turned 8. Now that little girl has grown up and started her career. I remember when my wife came to me with the idea of getting a dog. I was not a fan. I had a good reason to be skeptical. I knew what could happen. My daughter would love and play with the dog and call it her own, but the one who would open up his heart and become attached emotionally would be me. I love dogs. I am a dog person. I come from a dog family. My wife did not. The writing was on the wall, but I caved and we began to make plans for our daughter’s birthday.
The morning of my baby girl’s big day, the family piled in the van and made the two-hour trip north to get her dog. It was a beautiful day, and we were excited about the adventure ahead. We arrived at the farm where our furry friend was born. There were several dogs to choose from. Same breed, male and female, each of them playful and wanting to come home with us. But we just did not feel like we were looking at “Our” dog. We asked if there were any more dogs that we had not seen. The owner told us there was one and went into the barn and came back with our Bandit. As soon as we saw him, we knew he was a Bennett. The ride home was fun with our daughter holding the little guy in her tiny hands. That began a 16-year relationship that we thoroughly enjoyed. Bandit saw our kids through college and into their careers.
As the kids got older, Bandit became more and more my best friend. Being an early riser, the two of us developed a routine. I would let him outside while I started the coffee. Then with a little bark at the back door, he was ready to come in for his morning treat. He would take his bone to our spot where I spent some my morning time with Jesus. We enjoyed each other’s company and yes you can say that the guy who did not want the dog, found his heart getting occupied with Bandit’s companionship. That’s what dogs do. I knew this would happen!
When it was getting time for Bandit to be put down, like most in that situation, we were hesitant. Were we doing the right thing? We felt guilty at times as if we were doing something inhumane. But in reality, we knew it was a season coming to an end. He was old, had a cancerous tumor on his leg that could not be operated on and had his “old man” cantankerous moments. This is what I did not want to deal with when we decided to get a dog. My heart was attached and saying goodbye was hard. The day we put him down was probably one of the worst days of my life. Gut wrenching as we said goodbye. His eyes still looking into ours with trust and love. With lots of loving words we said goodbye. Ugg! How can saying good bye to a dog hurt so terrible?
That afternoon I retreated to the golf course with my good friend and associate pastor. There was no way I was going home with all of the reminders. We talked about Bandit and I commented to him how guilty I felt for grieving so much for a dog. His answer was kind and comforting. It also spoke vividly to the things, the people, the memories we value. He said, and I paraphrase, “You valued Bandit because he was part of your everyday life. He was your routine, your pet to care for. He was in your family, you opened up your heart and now he is gone. There is a hole.” Such true words to describe the loss of something we value. Now I know that there are people who do not see their pets this way. They have put many a pet to sleep only to get another one to do it all over again. There are also other things that people value that I might not. But that is the beauty of value. It is what we open our hearts to. In any case, it hurts when it is gone because we placed value upon it.
I hesitated to write this devotion when the inspiration hit. In fact, I waited a few days before sending this out. I did not want it to seen as if I was comparing the life of a person to a pet when using the story of the Centurion and his servant. There is no comparison. We all know the value of people. People have the value of the cross. Jesus willingly died for people, not pets. But my friend defined it well when he talked about the value and the place where we put things, people in our hearts. We simply do not know how much someone, or something means to us until there is a threat that it can be taken away. The experienced commander in the Roman Empire understood this. Yes, there is a story about faith and it is powerful. But there is also the story of value. The Centurion could get another servant. He could get 10 more to replace the one. But that is not what he valued. His heart was open and occupied by this individual who meant and did so much for him. The thought of him not being there caused him to step out in faith and ask Jesus for help. His heart had a space that was occupied by the value of the relationship.
Bandit was a good friend. He was a valuable part of our home and he developed a network of people who cared for him when we could not. But Bandit is a dog, was a dog and though he was valuable to me, my family, we now move on. But during this season of letting him go, God and my good friend taught me a lesson about my heart. It is in my heart where I place value and allow people and things to live. It is important for me to appreciate and care for them while they are with me. When I pray for people, I pray because of their value to me and God. When I look at the things I value, I make sure they are in right priority and not getting in the way of things that truly matter. Our hearts our treasure chests that contain so many valuable things.
Take some time after reading this devotion and do an inventory of your treasure chest. See the faces of family and friends. Thank God for them. There are other things you may see. Use this time to put them in order of priority and most of all, position your heart to magnify the greatest treasure of all… Jesus. Celebrate Him!