What vital family lesson can we learn from "man's best friend"?
You may know the famous story of Lewis and Clark's expedition across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean and back. But you may not have heard the story of a lesser-known member of the party, a brave black Newfoundland dog named Seaman. He was just a dog, but his story is a lesson of faithfulness and loyalty—a lesson that husbands and wives should consider.
Covering thousands of miles, Captain Meriwether Lewis, Second Lieutenant William Clark and their small band of companions made their way into American folklore. Captain Meriwether Lewis' faithful dog, Seaman, accompanied the expedition the entire distance.
Seaman was Lewis' faithful companion on a dangerous journey of many thousand miles. He defended his master's party; he witnessed Indian skirmishes, death, disease, success and failure and he endured freezing winters and long hot summers. He was injured many times, but he pressed on.
Once, deep in the wilderness, Lewis had to perform painful surgery on Seaman to repair a life-threatening injury the dog had received from a wild animal. When a tribe of Native Americans stole Seaman, his master took the risk of retrieving him at gunpoint. Undaunted, the two pressed on.
Although the records are incomplete, there is even strong evidence that Seaman was loyal to his master unto death. According to Timothy Alden's multiple volume history, A Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions with Occasional Notes (5 vols.), after Lewis' tragic and violent death in 1809, Seaman remained at Lewis' grave until he himself died: "The fidelity and attachment of this animal were remarkable. After the melancholy exit of Gov. Lewis, his dog would not depart for a moment from his lifeless remains; and when they were deposited in the earth no gentle means could draw him from the spot of interment. He refused to take every kind of food, which was offered him, and actually pined away and died with grief upon his master's grave!" (vol. 5, p. 98).
Seaman's loyalty was a very good quality, and is a lesson for us in many ways. How loyal should we be? How faithful should fathers and mothers be to their children? How faithful should children be to their parents? How much more faithful should Christians be to their Lord and Master?
How loyal should a husband and wife be to each other during the long journey—consisting of numerous adventures, injuries and successes—that is called marriage? "Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. 'For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence,' says the Lord of hosts. 'Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously'" (Malachi 2:15–16).
In his powerful booklet, God's Plan for Happy Marriage, Tomorrow's World Editor in Chief Roderick C. Meredith comments on that passage from Malachi, noting that, "among other things, marriage is a 'test.' It is a test to see how loyal you will be to God's instruction regarding marriage and to your mate with whom you share this sanctified relationship. How much will you 'give' of yourself to this other human being? How much will you be patient, kind and humble in order to make it work?" (p. 9).
Meriwether Lewis had a faithful companion throughout one of the most amazing journeys in American history. His companion was not treacherous. His companion was faithful and loyal unto death.
But Seaman was just a dog. You and I are potential children of God and heirs to immortality (Romans 8:17)! We are created in God's image (Genesis 1:26)! We are told to have Christ's mind—His character—in us (Philippians 2:5)! Seaman was faithful—how much more faithful should we be? To God? To our spouse? To our family?
Husbands and wives, you are on a lifelong journey. Be loyal. Repair those injuries. Heal.