Parenting is the greatest test of faith I’ve ever experienced. Nothing can break my heart, send my pulse sky-rocketing, and bring me to my knees like the sweet, hurting or scared face of my child. Watching our daughter navigate through high school is hard enough. I can’t imagine what it would be like to know they’re fighting in a war. Today’s post, from a Marine’s mom and fellow writer, shows us what it means to trust God not only with our lives, but with the lives we hold most dear.
The Purpose of Faith by Mary Hamilton
In approximately two weeks, my son—a Marine—deploys to Afghanistan. It’s not the first time he’s been deployed. Two years ago, he served in Fallujah, Iraq as part of the security detail for a battalion commander. He finished his enlistment, came home and went to college for a year, then decided he wanted a little more adventure and excitement. He always thought it would be impressive to say he fought in two wars, under two presidents. And he figured he had a window of opportunity where he was still young enough and unattached, and he needed to make use of it. Sound judgment, in our opinion.
Seven years ago, he told us he wanted to join the Marines. My husband and I heard “military” and believed he would go to college, maybe join a ROTC program, and enter a branch of service as an officer. He was accepted at a university, but when we went to look it over, he was obviously uninterested. We attributed it to normal teenage apathy. Several days later, he told us (with little enthusiasm) that he’d try college for a year and if he didn’t like it, he’d quit and join the Marines. We thought that sounded reasonable.
I expected to feel settled now that the decision had been made. Instead, I felt…restless. My spirit felt troubled. All week, I kept thinking he’s going to change his mind. He’s going to join the Marines. School is not where his heart is at. It would be a mistake for him to go to college right now. He’s going to join the Marines.
Finally, I figured out it was the Holy Spirit pestering me, so I sat down to discuss this with God. I sensed God was leading my son into the Marines; this was the path chosen for him.
“But what if he doesn’t come back?” I argued.
A saying came to mind that I’d read when my dad died nearly 30 years before. It went something like this: If we believe in God, we don’t have to worry about when we die, because whenever it is, we’ll know we’ve accomplished everything God thinks it’s important for us to do.
I sensed God asking me, “Has anyone ever died outside of my timing? Has anyone’s death ever caught me by surprise? I decide when you’ve accomplished everything important that I have for you to do, and nothing can take you from my hand before that time. But when that time comes, it won’t matter whether you’re in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or out here on the freeway, or in your own back yard.”
Okay, Lord. Next question–how do I cope if his time comes when he’s over there?
Christ gives us eternal life. First Corinthians 15:19 says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Faith is not just something we use to get us through this life. It’s for the next life. Death is exactly what our faith is for. Hope beyond the grave. Hope that this is not the end, that we will see our loved ones again on the other side.
Now, seven years later, I remind myself of these things. That no one can snatch my son from the Lord’s hand before his appointed time. Not even terrorists.
Easy to say. Hard to practice. Especially when I read of young men shot by snipers or blown up by buried explosives. But, I raised a U.S. Marine. One of the Few, the Proud, the Brave. If he can face this danger with confidence, so can I.
His time may come while he’s in Afghanistan. If it does, I will cry my eyes out and grieve for the man whose smile brightens any room; whose one-liners can make us laugh so hard we get tears in our eyes; who once told me, “Mom, I may take a different girl out each night but you’re still my favorite.”
And in the midst of grief, I will cling to my faith, to the hope that this is not the end. I will see him again. That’s really what faith is for.
Mary Hamilton is a follower of Jesus Christ, a sinner saved by grace. She is happily married with three terrific kids who are almost grown and on their own. She started writing for publication about 25 years ago. A few articles found publication in magazines like Today’s Christian Woman, Seek, Discipleship Journal. She also wrote a Christmas play entitled “Homespun Angel”. Now, she’s working on her first novel. Although she originally intended it for an adult audience, it has taken more of a turn to middle-grade (ages 8-15). Hopefully, someday, you’ll see her name on a cover in a book store.Visit Mary’s blog to find out more about her and her writing, or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***And remember, this month I’m hosting my “top 20 of 2011” where I repost twenty of my favorite blog posts, written by others, from the past year. At the end of the month, I’ll tally your comments, FB shares, retweets, and “likes” to determine your favs of my favs. 🙂 So…if you loved this post as much as I did and want to see it in the top three, you know what to do.