praying soldierThe past three days have been good for the Aldermans.  Tracy, Megan and I spent the weekend in the hills of southcentral Pennsylvania in fellowship, worship and fun with some new friends and that’s always good.  Mark Benz, with the Officers’ Christian Fellowship, called recently to ask if I would lead the worship at this weekend retreat for some military chaplains and their families.  Mark, a retired army chaplain, is a dear brother who has a true servants’ heart and understands what these folks deal with.  It was eye-opening to get to know these remarkable people and Memorial Day is more meaningful with this experience so fresh in my memory.

I can’t completely identify with their work, even though I’m also a minister.  The physical suffering of those in their charge is sometimes the result of war.  The unseen, but very real, emotional and psychological trauma they help to ease is constantly present.  Some are facing moves to new assignments, some just got back from deployment, all are faithfully following a special, sacrificial call.  Whether at the War College, Walter Reed or on a base these caring ministers seek to bring healing and truth to needy, hurting families.

Their stories are compelling.  At meal times, I just kept asking questions about their work and ministry.  The dedication and sacrifice of their wives also amazed me – they understand their call and what it means for their families.  Frequent moves, prolonged periods apart from each other, pressures of ministry to others even during war time: these are not people whose daily lives are like mine.  It was fascinating and humbling at the same time.

It was also a reminder that, spiritually, my life should be like theirs.  Paul used military imagery to describe our life in Christ.  He called fellow Christians “soldiers” (e.g., Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25 and Archippus in Philemon 1:2) and he mentored Timothy with the same image: 

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3, 4)

If you were in the infantry in Iraq or Afghanistan right now, what would your “war awareness” be?  Every second of the day would have to bow to the truth that “I’m fighting a war”.  Can you imagine being a soldier with hostile enemies all around, but not carrying your weapon or reviewing your training much?  That would be a pretty worthless soldier, putting himself, his buddies and the mission in jeopardy.  The reality of the spiritual warfare Christians face mandates that we commit ourselves to the cause, acknowlege and accept the hardship with the goal of pleasing the Commander.  I need to think more that way.  Anybody else?

Driving home, I also was struck that these military leaders should be included in our 1 Timothy 2 prayers for “kings and all those in authority”.  Pray for their safety, wisdom and families, but don’t forget their spiritual life as many walk the line between life and death every day.

On this Memorial Day, let’s take a moment to realize that we followers of Jesus are also enlisted and are in a very real battle every day in this world.  And God bless our military and the great example they display.