May 27, 2008 § 3 Comments
It is Memorial Day weekend and we joined the celebration by spending time with friends in two different homes – a sweet time of cookout, football tossing, marshmallow toasting and friendship spread out over several conversations.
One of my favorite parts of this particular holiday is the war movies. It would be an injustice to attempt to name them all – each has its own contribution in telling the nation’s story through its wars. They do something good in me – perhaps it is the sentimental patriotic spirit they connect to in me, or the fact that they are tied to history – I’m not quite sure – but what I know is that through the years I have become strangely attached to the characters in those particular movies. I love seeing Steve McQueen put the Nazis on a wild goose chase in The Great Escape, or Jim Brown drop the grenades, running across a roof right before he is gunned down in The Dirty Dozen, and of course, William Holden, as he figures out who the true spy is in the prison barrack in Stalag 17 (my personal favorite).
This morning, however, I watched the news, and in light of the holiday one channel offered a short bio on a young retired Marine Sniper. I was shocked to realize that he retired at 22 years of age. He articulated the physical and emotional stress of war (he wasn’t complaining, just explaining) – the difficulty he had transitioning back into his soft American life after returning from his tour of duty, and how he determined that he needed to be guided by a different set of values when it comes to living that life out – he had been given perspective.
What struck me is that as I watched and listened to this man’s story, I was drawn in as I would be one of those movies. And it hit me that this is what made those movies successful and endearing. They personalize those who serve.
Let me complicate this a bit before bringing it all home. You may not know this, but a ‘Troop’ is an individual soldier. There was a time when I thought that ‘Troops’ were groupings – maybe a few dozen, or one hundred, or a thousand soldiers – but not one! Though it is spelled differently a ‘Troupe’ in the acting business is the entire cast of actors who put on a play. Boy Scouts are in ‘Troops’ – they meet in homes and get badges in churches and public schools – that kind of thing. But in the Armed Forces, ‘Troops’ are individuals.
Today and this week, those who have served, and those who love those who have served – and perhaps even have given their lives for this country, and those who are currently serving – all deserve our respect and honor. You don’t have to like a war to honor those who have sacrificed and committed themselves on our behalf.
However let’s be clear – on the battlefield they are ‘Troops,’ but in reality – in the eyes of Moms and Dads, Coaches, Ministers and Teachers, Best Friends and Former Classmates – they are young men and young women (to me they are boys and girls). They are sons and daughters – someone’s baby. They have faces, names and hometowns. They are Individuals.
Recently in church we were reminded that God doesn’t number us – He calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1). This is the way of the Gospel – it reveals a God who actually pursues us, serves us, has sacrificed for us and forgives us – in and because of Jesus. It is all so personal. At first it is so intimate that it unravels and unhinges most – but eventually, to those who believe on the name of Jesus (again – very personal), it is the sweetest of realities.
This week, let’s honor those who serve as though we know them – by name, if we can. Something tells me that this is the way the Gospel is supposed to work in all of life – not only to those in Iraq, but also to those in Baltimore – to those in Afghanistan, and to those in Ellicott City. By coming into our world as a needy flesh-and-blood human, Jesus opened the door of Grace, enabling us to see this broken world on a person by person, face by face, name by name way.
With the Gospel it is all so up close.