Post contributed by Keith Barnett, faithful servant and Master Chief Web Guy at United We Serve.
“They say the dead are the only ones who ever see the end of war … I’ve seen the end of war … I just hope I can live again.” … A quote from the movie “Brothers”. Very graphic movie … depicting quite a true to life representation of PTSD and what our men and their families experience when they return from war.
After watching this movie I remembered an experience I had several years ago … I met a man (Staff Sergeant) at a reintegration retreat where I was a chaplain. His wife was falling apart as she had been working and doing all she could for 4 years to hold their family together. He has been back from Iraq about 3 years. His experiences in Iraq changed him. He was aggressive with me at first when I tried to reach out to him one-on-one. He told me we were 2 ships passing in the ocean and I know nothing of his life. He was right. All I knew was he was in pain and he was about to lose his family. I preached a message that night in the chapel about the great soldier Namaan who came to the prophet covered in leprosy. I don’t know why, but I used this Staff Sergeant’s name in place of Namaan. Later he approached me and asked me outside the building where he began to “dip in the Jordan and cleanse himself” and honored me by trusting me with all the details of his experiences while in war. It was the first time he had ever spoken of these things in 3 years.
Why am I telling this story? Staff Sgt. was living a life of mere existence. If you asked his wife about her day … she was a go getter … working, volunteering, kids, cooking, cleaning, etc… If you asked him about his day … he played golf. He was going nowhere. No ambitions and the only hope he had was to not have to use the suicide note he carried with him in his wallet.
I heard a message yesterday at church called “Awakening”. I cried later talking to a friend. I realize that to some degree spiritually I’ve been merely existing … playing golf. I miss the man I once was. So, what am I waiting for? It isn’t academic. It isn’t a set of dos and don’ts or an algorithm that will save me. It is enough to feel my heart break and be discontent where it lives at times. I’ve been given a new life. I feel like the man who is released from being in prison for a long time, shocked by the light of day, overwhelmed by the vastness of the world and the opportunities, trying to figure out his first steps.
Why am I sharing this? I don’t know …
I’m not reaching out for help … prayers are welcome o)
I’m not wearing my heart on my sleeve for pity’s sake
My message may be that God’s grace is a beautiful thing. At times we feel far from God (or disconnected), but God is a lover that understands, forgives, and gently loves us back into His arms. He doesn’t push himself on us. He doesn’t force His love on us. He doesn’t force us to love Him. At times he is the gentle quite lover who longs and patiently waits for us to turn around and look at Him. When we do we realize He has tears in His eyes because He is familiar with our suffering and pain. He has a smile on His face because His unfailing love cannot be contained. See the very familiar poem below:
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you.”
The poem below is called “High Flight”.
I’m not a pilot, but I’ve loved this poem since I learned it. It is inspirational
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941