So many letters, so many emails, colossal phone bills, and an obsessive presence on instant messenger… We dated for two years and ten months. In total, he was gone for a year and six months. He was in Iraq for seven months; I was eighteen when he left. I was so young. I didn’t even know how to begin to wrap my mind around his job. I didn’t try to. I supported him; I had to. I never wanted him to go into the military.
For reasons unrelated to his military career, we broke up roughly a year after he returned from his deployment. I still loved the Marines; I’d grown fond of their shenanigans, as well as their odd militant ways. But I was free of the questions looming over head and lurking in the shadows of my mind. I didn’t have to fight to ignore them—they were gone from my life. And life moved on. I packed up my USMC hoodie and hid the letters in the basement. I threw away the addresses to all the various military bases and untagged a bunch of pictures. We still chat from time to time; we’re still friends, but life really has moved on.
Over the past few years I noticed a resentment stirring within me towards American pride and patriotism. I’ve cringed at the sight of “support our troops” written out on signs, pasted to cars, and at the sound of it echoed in churches. I hated the patriotic songs—“blind patriotism” I called it. Blind to what? Even I didn't know.. I hated my country. And I grew more apathetic than ever towards my government. I didn’t know why.
Recently I crossed paths with a military gent' who believes God called him into the military. When he spoke about it, I believed him, but I couldn’t grasp why and lacked the gumption to ask. Days later, those ghostly questions, unanswered, arose again… Only this time I let them come. I felt them, turned them over in my hand again and again and again. This time I wasn't afraid of what the answers might be. I wasn't afraid to grapple with them until they told me their names. I had nothing to loose this time and only answers to gain.
While I cleaned stalls at work, the battle raged within my heart. I needed to know the truth. I could feel the answers, knew they were real, but couldn't discern their shape. I believed him; I could not deny the conviction with which he carried himself. But I couldn't comprehend my God calling him to that. How could war be acceptable when it ruins even the victors' lives? The guilt and shame, only seen in the vulnerable moments when love takes down the wall. How could it be God? I’ve seen what it does to them. I’ve seen a man red-eyed and scared. I’ve seen him twitching in his sleep as the haunting dreams come. I’ve seen him broken, seemingly beyond repair. All for what, and why? Why call it good and godly when it ruins men’s lives? Why would God commission one of his sons to a life of death—a life of killing to not be killed and dying within himself every time he kills?
I had to have answers this time, and I had to have them from the source of truth. “God, why would You call one of Your sons to a life of death?” As I asked the question, He echoed it back. Why would I send my son to die? Do you really not understand that? Immediately I understood. More words reverberated through me... the first Adam, the second Adam, now a third. Dying for the bride, trusting in the resurrection. Greater love has no man than he who would lay down his life for his friend.
I didn't know how to respond. My paradigm had just been shaken. As I stood there silently in the barn, He continued to speak. How could you not understand? You’ve seen what it does to them. You’ve seen a man red-eyed and scared. You’ve seen him twitching in his sleep as the haunting dreams come. You’ve seen him broken, seemingly beyond repair. I understand now; compassion overwhelms me. I understand a Son willing to sacrifice Himself for the lost and broken, trusting His Father to heal every wound inflicted in the process.
I understand the commission and the response.
I am moved.
It was my world for three years, and I never understood it until now.