For nearly five years, we lived in a sleepy beach town on the way to nowhere. On our first weekend in our new house, a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic – 2,000 miles from our prior home in the desert – we were greeted by Isabel, our first experience with a hurricane. I muttered under my breath to Jesus, “You surely didn’t bring us here to wipe us out,” about 12,000 times.
Thankfully, He didn’t.
However, we promptly had the opportunity to give away our newlywed couch and matching chair to strangers who lost everything to flood water. Thankful we chose a house built on the highest land in the community where flood insurance was expected.
We sat on boxes anticipating the delivery of our new couches for months. It turns out the freight company was waiting for a full truck headed in our direction before leaving the warehouse. And then some thinking person made a connection to the obvious.
Unless you’re planning to deliver furniture to people who live in the ocean, a full truck headed our way is either a miracle or impossible. Did I mention we lived on the way to nowhere?
When the couches were finally delivered and moved into place, we sat on them for the first time and they promptly busted apart underneath. We wondered if we’d eaten too much or if H and I were asleep, sharing the same nightmare. We soon discovered a flaw in architecture of the frame of the couch. It took over a year to settle what should have been an afterthought. We still use one of them on our back porch after H managed to repair it.
While this memory is one I’ll never forget, the second most vivid recollection of living in that town is four years of Veteran’s Days lined up.
Because I want my children to know that Veterans Day isn’t a free pass from school work. It’s the meaning of sacrifice, a celebration of someone willing to give up their life so we can live in the glorious, undeserved riches of freedom.
On Veterans Day during their childhood, we baked hundreds of cookies, dropping them into cellophane bags tied with ribbons attached with thank you notes. From the safety of our mini-van, my children hand delivered each bag into the hands of several veterans who attended the church where H was pastoring.
The look on their faces upon reception, it was the reason we did it more than once.
I can still picture Vic’s small blue eyes twinkling behind his glasses, gray hair slicked back and a sheepish smile on his face as we extended a cookie bag in his direction. You would’ve thought we were from Publisher’s Clearinghouse holding that oversize check.
Vic was a Major General who flew several presidents from the pilot seat on Marine One, starting with Lyndon B. Johnson. When I knew him, he lived in a modest, but beautiful home on the water in our neighborhood and his wife attended the bible studies I led.
As I think about saints like Vic who have gone on to glory, I am sobered by their success and accomplishment, but more than that, I’m inspired by their quiet humility. In a world elbowing its way to platform building in order be “Liked” by the masses, the legacy of selfless ambition is desirable and refreshing.
Are we able to lay down our lives for something bigger than ourselves, to pay the ultimate price and keep quiet about it?
Perhaps veterans are mimicking Jesus love for us without knowing it. Giving themselves away, paying the ultimate price for our freedom.
Today, as I sit on that “broken” couch on my back porch, I’m offering crumbs of thanks instead of cookies. May we never take someone’s “yes” to surrendering their life in the name of freedom for granted.
Their stories were written so we would remember what hope looks like. (Romans 15:4)
Minute six from this interview is a poignant illustration of hope from the vantage point of a veteran: “Every dream, every hope I’ve had for the future is broken around me and I don’t’ know where to turn. It was in that place that God said, ‘Do you still trust me? Do you still believe that I have what’s best for you?’ It was in that moment that I understood hallelujah. I may be more whole now than I’ve ever been in my life.” ~Marine Cpl., Tim Donley