My husband loved to give me jewelry. His dad owned a jewelry store, and he’d worked there in different capacities during summers as a teen and then as a college student. He learned how to polish silver, how to deal with the public and how to make a woman happy: by bringing her something from a jewelry store.
The first piece of jewelry he gave me was a delicate necklace made of silver in a starburst design with diamond chips around the outside and a pearl in the center. He gave it to me at Christmas, the year before we got engaged, sending the message he was serious about our relationship. Over the years I’ve received bracelets, broaches, rings, pendants and earrings, all lovely. But the most creative piece went above and beyond all of those.
When Nate was in law school, he participated in ROTC, entering the U. S. Army as a reservist. The Viet Nam War was raging, and by voluntarily enlisting, he beat the draft and a sure assignment to ‘Nam.
When he went on active duty, he was issued a pair of identical ID tags informally called “dog tags.” They were worn around the neck on a 24” ball-chain at all times. Made of aluminum, they wouldn’t corrode or burn. If a soldier was wounded or killed, one tag was taken to the record-keeping officer, the other left on his body for accurate ID.
Nate never went to Viet Nam, a blessing to us as young marrieds. After he received his honorable discharge, his pair of dog tags went into a dresser drawer.
Around the time of our 25th anniversary, he retrieved one of these tags and took it to a jeweler friend, asking him to dip it in gold as a pendant for me. The dog tags represented our safe passage through a dangerous time in America’s history, and he knew I’d understand the significance.
When I opened the blue velvet jewelry box on our anniversary, I was delighted. Next to the regulation dog tag, now gilded in gold, was a mini-tag, also gold. He’d had it engraved with the Scripture that was inside both our wedding bands: “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (Song of Solomon 2:16)
On the back it read, “11-29-69, until the end of time.” He’d carved his promise to be my husband until time ran out. Today as I fingered the necklace, his inscription took on new meaning. Time had indeed run out on our marriage, and Nate had kept his promise 100%. My heart was flooded with gratitude and deep respect.
The five lines on every dog tag are a distilled summary of that soldier’s life:
- Line one, his surname.
- Line two, his given name and middle initial.
- Line three, his social security number.
- Line four, his blood type.
- Line five, his “brand” of religion.
At the moment of death, these hard, cold facts are the only things that matter: who you are, and where you’re going.
There are several spiritual parallels to military dog tags. God knows each of us by name and invites us to the sure knowledge of where we’ll go immediately after dying. When life has boiled down to its bare minimum, dog tag data is all that counts.
But God doesn’t need ID tags to keep us all straight. He actually offers to carve our names into his hand as a way of showing us how much we mean to him. He doesn’t ask us to carve his name on ourselves once we belong to him but does it the other way around. It’s as if he says, “I’m holding your information. It doesn’t have to be stamped into aluminum to evade corrosion or fire. It doesn’t have to be strung on a ball-chain or hung around your neck. And there doesn’t need to be two copies, because who you are and where you’re going is supernaturally protected from all harm.”
Nate made a promise to me, “until the end of time.” God made a promise to all of us, “until the end of time, and throughout eternity.”
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16a)
“But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you… ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’ ” (Isaiah 43:1)