Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.” (Colossians 1:21-22)
It was a moment I will probably never forget. My wife and I love adventures. We look for ways to do things on a limited budget and we’ve actually gotten pretty good at it. A few years back we discovered we could take a train from Carbondale to Chicago, stay downtown at a nice hotel for a couple of nights and enjoy whatever was happening around us.. all on a shoestring budget. We would usually go around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. It was pretty awesome.
Last year we went the week of the 4th. We grabbed a very nice hotel room and managed to snag a room that literally faced the fireworks display. It was awesome. At Millennium Park they have these incredible free outdoor concerts. Thousands of people from all walks of life gather on the large lawn to listen. Because it is the 4th, the music centers on America. They usually have a section where they honor the veterans by asking them to stand when the theme for their branch of the service is played.
I am a veteran. I served in the United States Air Force for 12 years and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And that’s the problem. You see, because it was so rewarding I always felt awkward standing to be honored because I felt like I received so much more than I gave. So that night, I knew that part of the concert was coming and I was dreading it. I knew that Judy would urge me to stand, I would say no and she would give me the look. Again. But that night, for some reason, something changed.
It was time. The stirring songs from each branch of the service began playing. Soon, the Air Force theme was playing. I looked at Judy and said, “I’m going to stand just for you.” As I stood something happened. First, I saw others standing that had served in the Air Force and I felt community…I stopped feeling apart and instead felt a part—a part of the family. But what happened next was amazing.
There was a mother with a couple of young boys sitting about eight or ten feet from me. The younger of her sons, probably seven or eight, looked at me and said this, “Mom, is he a hero?” And I watched and listened as she said, “Yes. He served our country so that we can be free.” Then she turned to me and mouthed the words, “Thank you for serving.” Well that was the highlight of the trip for me and it was the day an unexplainable wall fell.
I am certain that I do not deserve the title hero. The men and women with crosses over their graves in all the national cemeteries deserve that. The warriors who came back from the various wars and conflicts bearing the physical and emotional scars of war deserve that. But the one thing that I realized that night was we should be thankful for our freedom. We can and should honor each person who served for their willingness and sacrifice.
So I’m still shy about standing at Veteran’s Day events. I still feel awkward at concerts when veterans are asked to stand. But it’s not because I’m ashamed to say I served. No, it is because I received more than I could ever give back. I was privileged to wear the uniform of my country. And that is pretty awesome. But wait. There’s more.
As I write this story another one is stirring in my heart. It flashed in my mind that this isn’t the only time, the only circumstance, that makes me feel this way. It is also my faith in God. That day when I followed Christ I also received more than I could ever give back. That day I was welcomed into the family of a God who loved me enough to give His Son to a Roman cross. Paul in the Bible tells us that we went from being alienated and hostile toward God to being able to call Him Father. Jesus caused my billion failures to disappear so He could present me faultless and blameless to His Father. We all need heroes. This Memorial Day would you take the time to remember those who bled and died that we could be free? Would you take your kids to the cemetery for your community’s Memorial Day service? I hope that you will. But I also hope you will pause and thank the Hero of Heaven for sacrificing His life so that people like you and me can be truly free. And finally, next time you have the opportunity to stand not as a hero but because of the One, stand proudly and thank Him. Thank Him that you can rest in Him. Thank you because He’s got this.