Last week, while taking a longed for road trip across America, my mother and I stopped in Dallas, Texas to visit the Presidential Library of George W. Bush. We both especially wanted to view his portrait gallery of wounded warriors. It was a moving experience. As we gazed into the painted faces, listening to the stories of these courageous people, tears would spring to our eyes. Some were amputees, some suffered PTS (post traumatic stress). Others had brain injuries. Their physical injuries varied but in spirit they were the same — they all pressed on.
I couldn’t help but think of my own father. He was also a wounded warrior. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was there during the TET offensive. He was wounded there and evacuated to Honolulu, Hawaii for surgery. Most of you who knew my father probably never knew that he, too, like many wounded warriors, suffered PTS, but like the other heroes — he pressed on.
I remember a day when I was sitting in his office. We were just chatting, talking about many subjects as we often did. Somehow the conversation turned to the days of the Vietnam War. I asked him, “Dad, did any of the people you knew over there ever get killed?” I can still recall the goose bumps that sprung to my skin at his one word answer — “everyday.” There was a faraway look in his eyes for just a moment and then he came back to present day and we talked of other things.
There will always be wounded warriors who suffer for the cause of their countries. Proudly they serve, knowing what could happen to them at any given moment. It’s the same with spiritual warriors, too. We serve lovingly and joyfully, knowing also that during any day, an attack of darkness against light could befall us.
We may be happily going about the business of the day, when in an unexpected moment, tragedy strikes. A phone call comes of an accident to a loved one, a doctor’s report of a terminal illness, an unsuspected pink slip shatters a work day, the bank informs of overdraft, divorce crushes the heart, unfaithfulness strangles joy in a second, death takes away. Every morning when we awake, none of us knows what form of adversity may come crashing into our world. No one is exempt, but like all wounded warriors — we can all press on.
All wounded warriors are created in the image of God. What does that mean? It means we were created to cry like Jesus cried, He felt everything we feel, He was tempted in every way that we have also been tempted, He was angry at the money changers in the temple, He was disheartened when friends did not stand with Him. I often think, too, about who Jesus’ friends were: fisherman. Can’t you just imagine the fish stories that were told around the camp fire? Don’t you know Jesus laughed along with all of them? He laughed and He cried. Jesus was a wounded warrior. He felt pain, endured tormenting emotions and temptations. He cried in grief. Above all, on the cross, He was wounded for our transgressions, but like all heroes, He pressed on, choosing to do the courageous thing. We can, too.
When we hurt, or are reminded of the scars we carry from our personal wars, or cry out in pain of desolation, we also have the strength to carry on. It’s a strength that comes from God Himself. We are created in His image; His strength is our strength. That is why Paul could say in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, this one thing I do; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.” This doesn’t mean that we literally forget the wounds that have come to us, but it means we don’t allow what happened in the past to define what we can become today. We are all wounded warriors, but let us be warriors of courage and defiance to what would hold us back. Like all heroes — press on.