Ramadi falls to ISIS!” The headline screamed across the gym to me as I viewed CNN from the treadmill just days before Memorial Day. I about burst into tears. Memories of fellow soldiers, pilots, and classmates killed and wounded in action consumed me. I wanted to throw the TV against the wall and scream out in anger. It was just too much for me. I couldn’t see the justice, and it felt as if the sacrifices we honor on Memorial Day were all for naught.
Most of the time, I live my civilian life with memories of being a soldier tucked neatly away in a small corner of my heart. Most of the time, I just carry on with daily tasks, with the values learned as a soldier of selfless service, courage, honor, discipline and duty infused naturally into my routine.
But then there are times when the love I have for soldiers and what they do hits me right in the gut. The memories move from the corner of my heart to the front of my mind, consuming me. And they don’t wait for Memorial Day or Labor Day or the Fourth of July.
It happens when I see videos of soldiers returning home—either in surprise celebrations or in caskets draped with flags. And videos of our heroes in action, and that awesome video of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier putting disrespectful hecklers in their place. And when I see an Apache helicopter flying in the summer sun. And when I read news that disheartens most of us to our very cores.
And that’s when I have to take a step back.
Beyond Memorial Day
God reached in to my full-fledged teenage rebellion and prodigal-daughter life to make me a warrior by placing me in the Army. But I remember full well that He did not make me a warrior to accomplish my personal vision, the Army’s mission, or even our nation’s goals. He made me a soldier for His purpose. He gave me—and you—a warrior’s heart for His ultimate visions, mission and kingdom goals.
This Memorial Day comes with a seemingly un-ending barrage of bad news threatening to consume our minds and hearts. But we must remember we are warriors called to a mission even greater than patriotism.
To fight the battle between patriot fervor and God’s higher mission, I’ve learned to do four things—not just on Memorial Day, but everyday.
First, focus on what is good, pure and true. When we focus on the bad news, it’s easy to take our eyes of the good news of the Gospel. Jesus already won the battle over evil when He died on the cross. Ultimately, evil cannot and will not win, though it seems it does in the world today. But this world is not all there is.
Second, focus on what’s in my area of influence. When we went to the shooting range to qualify our weapons, we were always instructed to “watch your lanes and stay within your left and right limits.” If we stepped outside our lanes, we wouldn’t be successful, but if we stayed in our lanes, we could effectively hit the targets in our maximum effective range. If you step outside your lane, you’ll focus on things that are out of your control, and you won’t be successful. Take care of what you can take care of and do it well.
Third, pray always. Prayer is actually our greatest weapon, not a last resort. We have a direct line of communication to the God of the universe because of Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16). And we are instructed to come boldly to God’s throne. Why don’t we go there first?
Fourth, above all, trust God. Everything is in His very capable hands—even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even when headlines boast fear and bloodshed. Even when I’m overcome with patriotic zeal. Even when sacrifices honored on Memorial Day seem all for naught. His hands are more capable than ours.
So today, Memorial Day, remember and honor those who sacrificed everything for our country. May we remember those who fought and died. May we remember the warriors. And may we remember that we are ALL called to be warriors – living our lives for a greater purpose and vision than ours.