Tim was a warrior. He joined the Marines about four years ago and was excited about serving his country. Why the Marines? Because he wanted to be where the action was; he wanted to make a difference; he wanted to count. Tim finished training and shipped off to Iraq. He wasn’t sitting in an office somewhere filing papers; he was in the hotbed of conflict in Baghdad and its environs. Raised in a family of ten siblings and grounded on the precepts of the Bible, Tim was strong, confident and fearless. His family took good advantage of our community churches’ “prayer chains” and together we lifted him up week after week, praying for his safety; praying for a safe return.
Tim served three tours of duty in Iraq and returned home this past Augustunscratched-from this tumultuous part of the world. We all breathed a sigh of relief that one more of our warriors was home, safe and sound.
Without hardly skipping a beat, Tim enrolled at a local university and was preparing to begin a “normal” adult life which included the reality of having to work to pay bills and his college education. And just a month after returning from the land of IED’s, beheadings, and suicide bombers, Tim was driving home from work one late August night and somehow went off the road. He was thrown from his vehicle, and that quickly this indestructible warrior, enjoying the life he helped to secure, was dead.
Our community was shocked. It was so unexpected, so senseless, so tragic, so unfair–especially unfair. It is that unfairness that penetrates the depths of the Christian’s faith, offending our so-called sensibilities stirring our anger. But we know that even our sensibilities, such as they are, must be placed in subjection to the Source and Object of our faith. We remind ourselves that “sensibility” derives not from our experience of life but from the counsel and wisdom of God alone. We remind ourselves God is never caught off guard.
“…your eyes [God] saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:16-18)
Jesus said, “The rain falls on the just and unjust alike.” Fairness is not defined by what transpires in this life for this life- important though it is- is merely a proving ground. We might experience what is fair in our lives and we are certainly blessed when we do. But God has never guaranteed that our time in this world would be fair. Christians in China and the Sudan, and India, have no difficulty believing this.
And so by our intellect we understand that fairness cannot be expected until the day the Lord returns, and by faith we look for that day when “every tear will be wiped away.”
So, longing for the promised reunion we salute our fallen warrior, and with every good Marine we remember their motto, “Semper Fidelis.” It means, “Always Faithful.” It is not how well we begin but how well we finish. Indeed, may be it said of every person of faith, firm until the end, no matter how unexpected or unfair that end may be.
By William E. Cripe, Sr.