Sunday, May 30, 2010

This Memorial Day

Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting my fair share of emails from family and friends that are in the service all reminding me to remember the real reason for the holiday.  I’ve gotten everything from military histories to heart warming prayers for soldiers. It’s a very important holiday to say the least.  Especially now since we are currently in two wars and a natural disaster that have troops deployed.  Not to mention the men and women deployed within our country and throughout the world. 

There is one particularly popular photo that I’ve received the most over the past few weeks.  That being of the old veteran at the parade that’s standing for the flags that go through during a parade.  What’s interesting is that he’s the only one on the block that’s standing.  What’s even more interesting is that he’s also standing up from a wheel chair. 

Now I’m not writing this to be a heavy-handed attempt to coerce anyone into uber-patriotism.  But rather I’m writing to remember those men and women that have sacrificed themselves for the sake of our freedom.  To each and every one of them, regardless of how you feel about our current international conflicts, deserve a warm handshake and a heart felt thank you at the very least.

But what’s even more striking in this season is the dark state that some veterans come back in.  There are many soldiers that go to war and never seem to come home psychologically.  I went to college with a US Army sniper that was deployed with a Marine Recon unit in Afghanistan.  He told stories of when he came home he’d have nightmares where he’d physically react.  One evening his wife had to strike him in the head with her fist to wake him up because he had her in a headlock. 

But there are others that never seem to adjust back into “normal” life.  This story here is an example of this sort of case.  This happened in the small town that my brother and his wife live in.  It’s a town with no more than 300 people in it.  Apparently the man who had built the pipe bombs was a real nice man.  He had gone away to fight in Desert Storm in the 90’s and when he returned he was just “off”.  Did something happen over there that scarred him?  If he never had gone to war, would he still have felt the need to build these bombs?  I’m not sure.  I have to think that it had something to do with it.

One of the podcasts that I listen to somewhat regularly is the Ransomed Heart podcast by John Eldredge.  The past couple podcasts he has interviewed a guy that does soldier counseling.  I don’t remember all the specifics because I was working on something while I was listening to it.  But basically what he does is he brings in the soldiers that are the worst off, men and women that are on the verge of suicide because of what they’ve had to do or witness during the war.  They counsel them back into functioning by teaching them how to forgive again.  They teach them not only to forgive their enemies, but also the bigger hurdle of forgiving themselves.  These are men and women that have been on multiple tours and have lost the will to fight and protect themselves and brothers in arms, and the hinge issue that they’re dealing with is forgiveness. 

So this Memorial Day, remember the men and women that are putting their lives on the line.  These are the men and women that are willing to go into the horrors of horrors in this world and confront it face to face.  These are the men that are in the most popular war movies, in the muck, the hamburger grinder, and fighting their way through it.  Remember that the men and women overseas have families at home.  And remember, a smile, a hug, and a “thank you” go a long way in the lives of people living in the hell we call war.

My 2¢.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Conversations with D

I was able to catch up with some close friends from my not so distant past last weekend.  We spent the day being old friends, telling old stories, laughing to tears and remembering when.  One of my friends I hadn’t seen or really talked to for the better part of three years.  Before time and distance separated us, he (I’ll call him D) was a good man, but a lady’s man.  D always had a new gal on his arm and didn’t care much about his personal purity.  The last few months he was in a relationship with another good friend of mine (I’ll call her S).  This relationship challenged him because S was definitely not one of “those” girls and he knew it. 

The relationship ended horribly.  Months of his unfaithfulness led to a volcanic eruption of emotion and a chasm that has yet to be bridged.  It was through this final falling apart and subsequent separation that D came to realize how much he actually loved S.  The only problem is that she still wants nothing to do with the guy.  There are scars that are yet to heal for S and a longing that cannot be quenched for D. 

My friends and I went out to get something to eat one evening.  Low and behold S was there.  She greeted the rest of us, but still gave the obligatory wave and “Hello,” to D; but her eyes were as cold as a January night towards D.  D saw it, I saw it, we all saw it.  It was one of those “elephant in the room” moments that leave everyone sitting awkwardly in silence longer than anyone would hope to sit in silence.  S hugged the rest of us and was off with her friends.  That’s when the previously rowdy mood turned somber.  The rest of the evening was filled with us trying to lift our guilt ridden comrade from the depths of his worst moments in life.

The evening continued back at the house into the wee hours of the night.  D and I sat up late talking about S and their past and the past couple of years.  D explained that since the end of his and S’s relationship, he hasn’t been able to date another woman without comparing them to S.  He explained that the liberal way he was with women in the past doesn’t even appeal to him anymore.  Don Miller would call this an ‘inciting incident’ that puts a person in a place so miserable that they’re forced to change.  Well, D had changed. 

He would ask me if I’ve noticed a change.  I would say I have.  I’d talk about faith issues and how I think he should find a mentor.  He’d counter with some ‘Yeah, but,’ excuses that I couldn’t counter (mostly because D’s in Omaha becoming a doctor for the Air Force and frankly I’m not familiar with the doctor/Air Force/Omaha psyche).  We talked round and round until I thought maybe the sun was coming up.  We finally said all the words we both wanted to and retreated to our rooms.  The next morning D was back to his normal self.  He slept off the depression and sadness from the previous evening.  We all enjoyed the day as if we hadn’t run into S the night before. 

I’ve been thinking about that night since it happened.  I keep thinking, “I should have said this, or that, and if I would have said this for sure he would have been better…”  But in all reality, I’m not sure I should have said anything.  Sure I think what I said was good and valid.  But is that what he actually needed?  I don’t think so.  He needed validation that he was not who he was three years ago.  He needed me to encourage him in his endeavor, and he needed a friend to grieve with.  This is what he needed, and I’m sure it’s what he needed because ultimately he wasn’t afraid that he would never be able to live without S.  He wasn’t even afraid of what S still thought of him.  Rather he was afraid that what S thought of him was actually true.  He was afraid that he still was the worst person that he’s ever been.  And it’s that fear that has him frozen.  And isn’t it the same with us all?  We’re all afraid that we’re actually the worst person that we’ve ever been.  But why do we give certain people the greatest voice in our lives?  Because there are some people that we love the most that know us best.  In D’s case, it was S that was supposed to know him the best.  So isn’t it only natural that he’d give her the greatest voice in his life?  I know he was reaching out to us, asking for validation of his personal change.  But in all honesty, I’m not sure that anything we said would have been enough to convince him that he’s changed.  D hadn’t given us the place of superiority (not that we should have it anyways, that’s Jesus’ place), he was still allowing himself to be judged based on S’s view of him. 

Is this the same garbage that we all fall into?  Don’t we allow ourselves to be validated by people and things that have no actual bearing in our lives?  If we truly believe that Jesus is the perfect Prophet, Priest, King, and Judge, then why do we still allow other people to have the biggest voice?  Many times we allow other people to tell us that we are the worst person we have ever been.  Even though it is probable that they are dealing with the same lies that we are.  The thing to remember is that it is an opinion from someone; it is not the end all word on our character.  One spec on a timeline doesn’t indicate the virtue of a person.  It’s the accumulation of the whole.  So keep your head up and confront the worst.  Because after the worst, the best is to come.  As the band Remedy Drive says, “Hold on…daylight is coming to break the dawn.”

My 2¢.