By Jason Kenney
Every branch and every specialty within the armed forces of the United States has this ideal written into its creed in some form or another. Ask anyone who’s ever served what drives them when things are at their worst and they will tell you that it’s the men beside you. If you’ve ever been in a firefight, you know that political agendas, foreign policy and political conjecture have zero to do with why you’re fighting back. That core value of laying down your life for your brother, that promise of “you go….we go”, that inherent commitment that outlasts any marriage, any business contract or any other promise is what flows through your veins and capsizes the fear and finishes the fight. Agreed?
Well, sit back. I’m about to become really unpopular with a few of you. I’m about to say something that may stretch your tolerance levels to their limit. I’m about to be completely and utterly politically incorrect.
We didn’t come up with this creed. We aren’t the first to make this promise. We are not special. We’re not even original. Someone already made this promise long ago. Someone already sacrificed more than you or I or anyone else could ever dream of. What if the success of your mission depended on you letting one of your brothers die? What if the success of the mission depended on you letting one of your children die? Could you? I couldn’t. There’s not a snowballs chance in hell of it. Listen to me when I tell you this because it’s the truth. Someone already has done just that. Someone, because they loved you and I so much, has sacrificed their only son to ensure the success of your mission. The warrior of all warriors, fighting in a timeless battle against the forces of darkness, despair, isolation, and any other emotion you can think of that tears a man apart sacrificed his only son. He did this willingly. He did this for you. Yes, I’m talking about God. I’m talking about Jesus. If you read no further than this, if you take nothing else from this article, know one thing. Whatever you’ve done, whatever horrific thing that is peeling you back from life, whatever hole exists in your heart is not truly there. You feel it, you see it, you remember it, but it’s not there. Those are the parlor tricks of a coward losing his war. Regardless of what you’ve done, your debt has been paid. Guilt, anguish, fear and regret are all the weapons of a coward fighting against you and fighting against God. They are overwhelming, debilitating and crippling. But here’s the trick of it, they only exist in the absence of faith. Evil is fighting a war that it lost centuries ago and you are the prize. Someone understands this. Someone made the first promise long ago to leave no man behind.
With PTSD, the VA and multiple combat fronts existing in our current times, you see a few common phrases: “You are not alone.” “Reach out.” “Call your buddy and talk it out.” You hear about prayer, you hear about faith and hope and love and you tell yourself it isn’t for you. Society and perhaps the church itself has done a few things in it’s time to make having faith something of a sign of weakness. There’s even a television show that depicts vengeful angels coming down to wipe out mankind because God abandoned us. Having faith used to be a sign of strength and character. With the modern culture, It’s now been painted out to be a sign of weakness or mental instability. It used to be that your belief and faith was personal and private. Your social acceptance with your peers was purely based on what was seen in your actions. With the advent of social media, cable television, satellite television and real time casting, nothing is private anymore. Everything is on the air. Your acceptance, your status and your character are projected on flat screens and LCD displays larger than the first television sets. All are powered by the almighty dollar and faith just doesn’t sell. Sex sells. Sex sells. Greed sells. Controversy sells. Who wants to watch the re-broadcasts of a war that was won centuries ago? Nobody wants to hear the same story over and over and over again. It’s just not that interesting. Effectively, good news just isn’t that exciting. When the world is flooded with excitement, eroticism, violence and hatred, how likely is it that the message telling you “none of this matters at all” will emerge? It won’t. But, here’s the good news, it’s the truth. None of it matters. What you did yesterday, that lie you told, that life you took, that smear on your shirt doesn’t matter. It’s all been paid for. Not only is it paid for, but you can turn all that guilt, hate, rage, anger and despair over to someone who is…..get this…..BEGGING you to do so. How cool is that? You mean to tell me that on top of failing, I’m forgiven. On top of that, the consequences from my failures are also to be laid at the feet of the one who forgives me for failing? You mean to tell me that the very warrior who loved me so much that he sacrificed his own son in a fight for my life is telling me that he doesn’t care what I did? He still loves me? True story.
So why don’t we turn to faith? What is it within us that makes us turn away? Aside from the fear of judgment by our peers (which…again…doesn’t matter) , what makes us deny the faith? As a war fighter, I hate admitting weakness. That’s been a hurdle to me for a long time. And that is the only thing that has kept me from a complete faith, admitting that I am weak, admitting that I need help or that I need grace. I’m an 11Bravo for crying out loud. I am part of history. The work that I have done will be in the history books. I break things, I don’t get broken. I’m not broken and I won’t admit to being such. But that is the turnstile that faith asks you to walk through. You have to admit that there is a higher power. You have to admit that you can’t fix everything, up to and including yourself. You have to admit that you don’t have all the answers. You have to turn it all over to God and say “I can’t do this without you.” That’s a tough pill for any war fighter to swallow.
In closing, I want you to imagine this: The battle is over. You smell the cordite in the air. Your heart is still pounding. The sweat stings the strained cracks in your skin. Your mouth is dry. Your hands are shaking. Your fight or flight reflex is still going like a bat out of hell. The sand that has crept into the small crevices of your knees and elbows is cutting into your skin with every movement you make. Diesel fuel, burning rubber and the fresh scent of warm metal inhabit your nose. The battle is over. You have won. And out of the smoke comes another warrior walking toward you. In his arms is another warrior. His body is disfigured, bloody, limp and beaten. With tears in his eyes, this man tells you “This was my son…..my only son….” You stare in disbelief as he comes closer and you see the obvious pain that his son’s life went through before death. As his eyes meet yours, he tells you “I sent him to die for you in this fight. I knew it was the only way to accomplish this mission. He knew this and went willingly into the fight. He gave his live so that you might live.” Would you turn your back and walk away? Would you? Would you tell another brother who made the ultimate sacrifice “Thanks, but I’d rather keep doing things on my own.” Then leave him standing there holding his fallen son on the battlefield?
We leave no man behind…….someone knew this and walked the walk. He is waiting for you to uphold the same commitment to him. You don’t have to give up your pulse, your world. You just have to believe in him. You just have to accept the sacrifice made on your behalf and stand with him in his fight. He is already standing beside you in yours. He always has been. Yes, you will fail. You will falter. You will exercise free will and do things that are far less worthy of this. He knows this. His son knew it. He believes in you. No, you are not alone. Here’s a caveat to that, you can’t do it alone either. If you have read all of this and are still sitting there with doubt in your heart or fear that this actually is a truth, I ask that you take a long look at your life and the situation you are currently in. Now, I want you to ask yourself what you have to lose by simply meeting him half way, accepting the fact that another warrior lay down his life for yours and believing, asking him for help and laying your struggles at his feet.
Who am I to say all of this? What do I know about it? What makes me an authority? I’m no theologian. I could find my way around the woods better than I can a Bible any day of the week. I’m a sinner. I’m also the guy who 3 days ago had already done enough to end his own life and was merely looking for a private place to dismount my vehicle and die. I was heading to a patch of woods. My pulse was pounding. I was starting to black out and knew I had to shut the truck down and head off into the tree line to die in peace. I was 15 minutes from my final destination. I had said my goodbyes. That’s when my truck, that had zero mechanical problems ever, died. I was lucky enough to nurse it off the road. Where did it stop? Right beneath the cross of a church. I was a dead man walking and my trusty old truck that had driven suddenly died in front of a church as I was on my way to my own death. I’m alive now. I’m a believer. I’m writing all of this because I know there are more out there who are in just as dark if not darker of a place than I was. I’m writing this to tell you, with tears in my eyes, that you are not alone. Not because I am here, but because God surely is. All you have to do is call to him. He’ll show up. Trust me.