But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.
~ Psalm 40:16 - 17
In the past two months I have spent time with two men who were soldiers. One man from Bolivia, the other an American. Both men encountered war. While their battlefields were on different continents, their stories of bloodshed and darkness, the sounds and the smells, are forever etched into their minds and spirits.
At the age of eleven, the man from Bolivia was handed a gun and told to shoot. "I learned very quickly that the last words uttered on the battlefield were 'mother,' and 'God.'"
As a young teenager he was able to escape the battlefield alive and walk to the United States alone. He crossed the border and became a "slave to a man that made me work in the fields and threatened me all the time that he would send me back to the battlefield to die in Bolivia. I finally got free from him, and escaped. I prayed to God that I would be free either in death or with God's help. That is when I met my wife and she saved me."
The other man served in Vietnam. Today he is still afraid of the dark, and must have a fan blowing directly on him because his mission was to seek out the enemy in the tunnels. "They would just wait for you to make a wrong turn. There were traps, and they weren't an easy death. Often they would harm a person enough that they would linger in the tunnel, hot and putrid. You would pray that you would find a bullet, rather than a trap, if you were to be injured. To this day, I get claustrophobic, even in the bathroom. It is awful. I keep telling my family to make sure I am cremated. The thought of my body being buried in a box scares me to death."
I have to admit, when I hear stories of war, and what people are experiencing decades later, just astounds me.
I met a man in his nineties, reliving his march across Italy as a young soldier in WWII, as he lay dying. As he died, all the walls built up in his mind came down, and allowed the memories to once again live.
It is in these strories that I struggle with what humanity does and allows to happen to one another. While I believe that these men, and their journeys, have helped to make their faiths a strong reality, the pain and the cost of the growth, creates turmoil as they journey home.
Scripture is full of stories that often talk of wars and battles, and even of greater wars as heaven and earth collide, and good and evil are separated, and eventually good prevailing.
I hate war and what it does to people. As I look at my children they have grown up in a time when we have always been at war, or "conflicts" to be politically correct. Each day there are families separated as soldiers leave their homes, and each night there are children that go to sleep wondering if their "mommy" or "daddy" will be safe.
The psalmist reflects that "when I speak of peace, they speak of war."
Finding that peace is God's reliance upon us, and the hope that one day we shall all love one another, even as Jesus asked before he was captured and put to death.
May the peace of the Lord be with you.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
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Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.