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It’s Personal

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O LORD, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. — Psalm 139:1-6

I really enjoy a good movie. I find that there are movie clips and movie quips which stick with me because they make a strong point—a point that is transferable in its application. One such cinematic moment which has remained with me through the years is from “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

In the movie Hanks is a successful businessman, owning a chain of large book stores. When one of his “Fox Books” opens up around the corner from Meg Ryan’s small children’s book store (started by her mother), it sadly causes her store to lose clientele to the “mega” store—complete with a coffee shop and cheaper prices. Eventually she is forced to close “The Shop Around the Corner.” The redemptive part of the movie is that Hanks and Ryan begin to work through their adversarial business relationship, and eventually fall in love. But during the tense days of their “friendship” he tries time and again to tell her that putting her out of business was just that—business—it wasn’t “personal.” Her confrontational come-back was, “What is that supposed to mean? . . . . All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. What is so wrong with being personal anyway? Because whatever else anything is it ought to begin by being personal!”

That line has stuck with me, because I find it to be true. I love that my Savior is my personal Savior. I love that His word, the Bible, speaks directly to my heart— a “love letter” written personally to me. And I love that at the end of Paul’s letters he gets very personal, too, and sends greetings to those who have helped him and served alongside him. For example, in the final chapter of Romans we find this very personal expression of gratitude, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.” (Romans 16:3-5) That’s personal. . . .as Paul thanks his fellow saints for saving his life!

What does this have to do with deployment? Well, when I was recently reading from Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (see EorP posting from Feb 18) I came to the devotional for July 9th, entitled “Our Story.” It was submitted by Stephanie Olsen, the wife of military police officer Joe Olsen. The Olsens were married for four weeks before he left for 18 months of service in Iraq as a National Guardsman, returning in July of 2004.

Stephanie wrote: “Many people ask me how it feels to be the wife of a former serviceman. I can sum it up in one word:personal. It’s very personal because it’s now our story, our sacrifice, our time lost. Joe’s deployment to Iraq directly affected who we were and who we are today. Surviving the experience for Joe (physically and emotionally), and for me (psychologically and emotionally), taught us that living out our vows was overwhelmingly important and real. In good times and bad—I was his wife, and he was my husband. We held it together even though we were apart. . . . We stayed true to each other even in a long separation. Through every trial. Overcoming all obstacles. This is our story. Our legacy. Our history. It is who we are.” (p. 246-247)

It’s personal.” I was staggered by Stephanie’s choice of words to describe their experience in the military during wartime. With that one word she expressed their past together (“Our history”), their present (“our story”) and the impact for their future (“Our legacy”).

We serve a personal God—one who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins. We are redeemed. . . . we are rescued. I am redeemed. . . . I am rescued. And because of that I can go to Scripture and read these verses and know that they apply to me and anyone who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior:

His love is personal: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. — Psalm 103:8

His provision is personal: The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. — Psalm 23:1

His guidance is personal: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3:5,6

His salvation is personal: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. — Romans 10:9,10

His comfort is personal: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. — 2 Corinthians 1:3

His grace is personal: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. — Ephesians 2:8,9

His peace is personal: Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. — John 14:27

Stephanie Olsen wrote in another devotional entry: “In the darkest, hardest, and most unsure moments (of deployment), God was there. In the frustrations He was there. In the uncertainty He was there. And I lived through it because He was there.” (p. 246)

God is there. . . . for you and for me. It’s personal.

Work cited:

Cook, Jane Hampton, and Jocelyn Green and John Croushorn, Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The War In Iraq & Afghanistan (Chattanooga: God & Country Press, 2009).

Questions to Share:

1.Read the Scriptures above. Which promise do you most need to hear and remember right now? Why?

2.If you do not know God personally: He wants to have a close relationship with you.

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