If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling. ~ Frederick Buechner

12 November 2013

Celebrating Intentionality and Sacrifices

If anyone had told me a decade ago that I would have strong opinions and feelings regarding Veterans Day or Memorial Day, I probably would have scoffed. I don't have any passionate allegiance to any country, mostly because of the way I grew up. I was born in Asia, grew up in Africa, and have lived in Europe and North America. All that to say, I have loved various aspects of living in different nations and cultures and having a diverse exposure to friends from all over the world.

But then I fell in love with a wonderful, kind-hearted, gentle-spirited, compassionate, God-believing man.

He also happened to have just gotten out of serving six years in the U.S. Navy.
N went into the military for a myriad of reasons, and I want to share a little bit of his story. He was adopted by his maternal grandparents as a toddler, and his biological grandfather (who he called "Dad") died when he was in high school. His grandmother/mom was on disability and living in an assisted living residence, and no one had ever talked to him about the possibility of going to college. So out of high school, having just lost a parent, with no real prospects ahead of him, he joined the Navy so that he could earn benefits to continue his education down the line.

He gave six years of his twenties -- a time when most of us are naively and blissfully making friends, being pretentious and acting like (and often being told) that we are incredibly intelligent and creative, and goofing off in our undergraduate years -- in service to his country, not because he was gun-happy, supportive of war, especially patriotic, or violence-prone. In fact, anyone who has met N will know without a doubt that he is one of the calmest, even-tempered, steady people you'll ever meet.

It is hard to get my husband riled up. Trust me. I live with him.

He went on two deployments, spending long months away from his friends and family, missing birthdays and holidays, faithfully writing letters home to his mom.

But you know what meant the most to him in that time, what changed his life?

Building schoolhouses and cleaning up dumps in poverty-stricken North Africa, where the only thing they have plenty of is sun.

Hot, scorching sun.

Rescuing malnourished Somalian refugees, running away from the only home and people that they had ever known, often leaving loved ones behind, with the glimmer of hope that there was a better life for them somewhere else.

Receiving a book of beautiful letters and drawings from his friend's second graders, thanking him for his service and asking him the most innocent and hilarious of questions.

You see, the military isn't just about gun-blazing, bomb-throwing, land-mine-exploding war. Yes, those things happen, and I don't want to diminish the sacrifices made by those soldiers who faithfully go into battle. But it is also about global service, about getting in the muck and rubble to help those who are much less fortunate and have only a smidgen of what we have in our daily lives here in America.

It's also about having a godly chaplain on your ship speak words of Truth into your life at a time when everything seems like it's falling apart ... and seeing God in that.

Because my husband met Jesus while he was in the Navy.

And there is no amount of arguing and accusing from so-called pacifists who just love to be hateful on days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day that can diminish the joy of that fact.

Jesus meant for my husband to be on that specific ship, on that exact deployment, with that particular chaplain.

Nobody in their right mind wants war.

Nobody in their right mind likes violence.

But we live in a broken world, and our soldiers and veterans have played an enormous part in ensuring that we are able to go about our days, fairly ignorant of the deep cost of the freedom with which we are able to live.

So really, for those who claim that those days are for mourning and grieving, I beg to differ. There are days for that, and for some families who have lost precious fathers, brothers, sons, mothers, sisters, daughters ... those days are every day.

But for those of us who love and cherish our veterans and soldiers, let us have our day to celebrate the sacrifices they have made without poisoning the day with your ideologies, bitterness and resentment.

Let us be grateful, and let us show them the appreciation they have earned and fully deserve.

I'll just be upfront and say that I cried through most of this post. Because I did a lot of internal struggling yesterday, trying not to be angry at things people were posting online regarding Veterans Day, and instead focusing on letting my husband know how much he is appreciated and respected.

Because you know what? My husband? He continues to make sacrifices. Five years ago, when he proposed and I said yes, it became apparent that I either had to leave the country and apply for a fiancee visa or we could get married and he could sponsor me on a permanent residency visa (based on marriage), he did not hesitate. Even though it meant that he had to delay his dream of finishing college and get a full-time job (a stipulation of being a visa sponsor). To this day, he continues to faithfully provide for our family, so that I can stay home with our children. He is never resentful of that fact, even though this is not his dream job that he goes to every day, putting in long hours, even though he would still like to finish those last few classes, even though college is exactly the primary reason he served those six years.

You cannot take away the love and respect I have for my husband, because I see his sacrifice every day.

I'm thankful for a church community that understands the sacrifices these men, women and their families have made and continue to make. I am thankful at least once a week that there are no 7-9 month long deployments in our family's foreseeable future, and my heart goes out to those families that ARE separated for those long, tiring months, often repeatedly.

It was incredibly special to look around the sanctuary this past Sunday morning as all the veterans were asked to stand and were applauded, especially because many of those who stood have seen more history being played out than most of us have.

Please keep all the active-duty military and their families in your prayers, as well as the families of those who have lost their lives in service to your country.


And please, as you sit behind the safety and anonymity of your computer screen, remember that these are people and souls, too.

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