Reflecting on Memorial Day 2014

There is generally a bit of unrest in my heart when it comes to the observances, remembrances and celebrations of our patriotic holidays. If you’ve been a faithful reader of this blog, this tends to come up from during July 4ths, Veterans’ Day, 9-11 and of course, Memorial Day.

Normally, I’m a fan of social media but I tend to avoid interacting on it on these days because it tends to add to my unrest. Too much sounds either trite, or overly-militant, and some sound overly-passive, borderline dismissive. The point of such an observance is that we stop what we do and remember the cost it took to allow us to do what we do. Some of what I observe takes me out of that but I try to be grateful for those who are encouraged from what they find on social media.

To be sure, I have nothing but respect, admiration and gratefulness for those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Further, members of my own family have served in their respective militaries voluntarily and involuntarily and again, I have enormous respect and admiration for them. My heart breaks and I pray for the families who find this day painful as they remember their loved ones. May God’s peace and strength find you.

But it’s not necessary to have lost a loved one to feel the pain of this day. How can you not pause and pray upon seeing pictures of a widow knelt by a graveside? How can you not feel the remorse of a child who is missing their father or mother or loved one who made such a sacrifice? How can you not be moved by pictures of thousands of flags adorned on public lawns? And how can you not imagine what it’s like for a soldier taking their post in harm’s way right now? May God’s presence be with them.

I pause and pray throughout this day not merely because it’s a patriotic duty but because I’m human. If it feels like an absurd idea that we send men and women into battle to stop the advancement of evil and oppression then you know what I mean and you probably realize, war and fallen soldiers were never part of God’s intention.

I float through the day with my mind being interrupted by the terrible cost of war, the pursuit of power and the hope for peace. I remember those who have returned with missing limbs and those who are battling PTSD and the alarming numbers and stories of those who take their lives as a result of PTSD – one very personal story in particular.

And so I think and pray for peace and healing throughout the day as well. I find myself meditating on the quotes passionate about perseverance over our adversaries and those calling for peace and illuminating the rage we find at work in this world. Although I do not describe myself as a pacifist, I do think some thoughtful ones have something to contribute here. If for nothing else, the pain of this day insists that we find another way.

I couldn’t help but wonder what it would like to not a have a need for remembrances like Memorial Day. It’s not that we would forget our brave and fallen but because in a world of peace, there would be no fallen warriors, there would be no need for combat. I’m sure to some this is a naive notion and given our fallen world, I couldn’t agree more. Still it’s striking to me that this exactly the world that God offers.

And perhaps this best summarizes the tension I and many others are experiencing today. The peaceful world God envisioned/envisions for us and the world that must respond to the evil, malice, and oppression.

So where does that leave me today? Well, I pray for the fallen and their families, I pray for those who are serving now, I despise the world that allows this, and I pray for a better one. It’s not peace treaties I pray for but rather that hearts be changed, specifically that we would care for the other as we care for the ones we love and the ones we’ve sworn loyalty to. The pain of war is great, may we see God to be greater.

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