The speech known as “The Gettysburg Address” was the dedication ceremony message for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, given by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863—154 years ago today . . . But have you ever wondered how this particular visit to the battlefield affected President Lincoln? Coming just 4 ½ months after the Union army’s decisive defeat of the Confederate forces at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln was so moved by the view of acres of soldiers’ graves that he gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ right there.
“From Carleene—‘Another Saturday night alone at Fort Bragg, NC, exhausted from another day alone with toddlers, alone without a husband to talk to, the kids without their daddy . . .I had been ruminating for months about giving up. I could not stand the stony silences on the one hand, and the sharp retorts, the anger, the constant fighting when he was home. Is this what marriage was supposed to be?’
Last week I received prayers by email from two friends whose sons are in the desert—one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Knowing that “Excellent or Praiseworthy” seeks to share spiritual encouragement during the war on terror, these special moms wanted to contribute what they are praying for their sons and their comrades-in-arms. The first email I received said this: “As the mom of a deployed soldier, I’m always looking for ways to pray for my son, something in addition to--‘Lord, keep him safe.’
We gather with military couples every Saturday night for dinner and Bible study. And at the end of our meeting time we take prayer requests—and then pray. But on this particular Saturday night, a certain prayer request brought some deep discussion. One of our young military men voiced discouragement over the atmosphere in his workplace on board ship. There was crudeness—to put it mildly. His desire was to be “light in a dark place”. But, in this current culture, what does that really mean for a Christian serving in today’s military?
During childhood many of us were taught the Lord’s Prayer. We can recite it “from memory” and it doesn’t mean a thing, if we’re not careful. Whether we call it the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Model Prayer” it reads like this in Matthew 6:9-13: “. . . Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts (some say ‘trespasses’), as we forgive our debtors (or ‘those who trespass against us’). And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Whether praying this prayer before going out on patrol in the desert, before going to bed at night, or as part of worship or a discipline of daily time with God, it’s a good reminder to examine this prayer for our “heart attitude” so that it doesn’t become just part of a “check-list of to-dos.”
Picture this—both sides in a battle are lobbing grenades at one another. The grenades blow up causing much destruction on each side. Now imagine that the two sides fighting are really a husband and a wife. The “grenades” are words and actions—and somehow both partners seem surprised when they “blow up”! Lots of hurt. . .lots of anger. . .and it just gets worse and worse. The fighting can continue right into the divorce court. If you’ve ever seen this happening in a couple, or experienced it yourself, you know that it’s just crazy!
I would be surprised if you have gotten through this deployment without any tears. Tears when your spouse left; tears during the long months of separation; tears at special occasions when your loved one’s presence is especially missed . . . tears matter. Tears matter to God.
“If I’ve done something wrong, I’m sorry.” “. . . . and I’ll try not to do it again, but I can’t guarantee anything.” “I was wrong to _____, but it was really your fault.” Have you ever heard statements like these, or maybe even said them yourself? Clumsy apologies—if you can even call them apologies. And in marriage a bad apology, or lack of an apology, can begin to cost you the whole relationship.
It was the very last word that my Mother said—“forever.” Every night after her stroke my husband and I would recite with her, as best she could, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, and then end our nightly time with singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We did that for two months until the Lord took her home with Him.
Where's our next assignment? Where do we go next—or do we get out? Ever asked those questions? Of course . . . it's part of being in the military. We seem to routinely assess our current assignments, and then decide what the options are for our next move. Of course filling out a "dream sheet" can bring out negativity in all of us—with the cynical attitude that we will NOT get what we put down as first, or even last, choice!