For Veterans

Dear Friends.  I invite you into the chapel this morning.  There are a few things I need to say, including words of apology for being away so long.  I have no excuse; just a confession of my neglect.  This is an important place for us to gather, and we need to meet here on a frequent basis.

I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  I really mean it, and what I’m saying is more than a holiday card slogan.  I’ve spent many of these “family times” all alone…by choice.  I’ve been afraid to be with people who smile and drink too much, when I’m lonely and sad inside, remembering Vietnam, grieving the Marines I lost there, and feeling the darkness inside my soul.  The counselors have said that when you seen the worst in combat, it leaves a “death imprint” on your mind and spirit.  So I pray that you’ll let some light into that darkness, and that you’ll find some joy in the next few days.

Also, I read this morning that there are three ways that trauma (any traumatic event) can affect your thinking.  First, it can destroy your sense of being safe.  Second, it can undermine your self-worth, leaving you with a lot of guilt and self-hatred.  And third, being involved in traumatic events can drive you to doubt that there’s any meaning and order to this world, this universe, this thing we call human life.

I want you to think about something.  Maybe Christmas holds some answers to these problems.  The Bible tells us that everyone was afraid back in the days when Jesus was born.  Afraid of the Romans, afraid of leprosy, afraid of demons and devils, and afraid of death.  And then a Savior came into our world to bring us the promise of security and eternal safety.  By trusting in Him, we’re told that we’ll never be alone, that we never need to fear anything.  Even death was defeated by this Man, who promised that we would be alive after death…in a place where Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan could not touch us.

The message the angels  brought also assured us that we are precious in the eyes of our Creator.  The good news first came to lowly shepherds, who were at the bottom of the social ladder.  When we feel like nobodies, forgotten even by the nation that sent us to fight for freedom, we can know that we’re not cast aside by the One who made us.  When guilt creeps in to make us feel awful about ourselves, we can remember that the baby born two thousand years ago died for all our wrongdoings, even (maybe especially) the ones we only imagine.  By His death in the Battle of Mount Calvary, he payed the penalty that we deserved and He cleansed us from all that inside dirt and darkness.

The final message from my morning reading was that war (or accidents, sudden illness or loss, etc.) can shatter our belief that there’s a purpose and a reliable structure to everything that happens.  The Christmas message is that there’ll always be events and circumstances that won’t make sense, but by trusting that God sees and knows all things, we can be certain that it all fits into His master plan.  I’ve come to believe that my horrible moments in Southeast Asia were used by the Lord to accomplish His will for my earthy journey. I hope that you’ll be able to come to this same conclusion.

This little talk was longer than I thought it would be.  I guess I have much to share with you.  More in the days ahead.

May God bring healing and hope to all.