Memorial Day is a special time. For many of us it marks a seasonal kick-off, and it tends to brighten our spirits as we look to the summer ahead.
I love cook-outs and other fun that day. But one of my proudest Memorial Day moments in recent years was at the Boston Common watching my young kids take in the sight of a hill full of flags set up to honor fallen soldiers. They had the chance to be still and contemplate in their own way the sacrifice of others for them.
It’s a humbling thought. Someone else sacrificing for us.
That is the true power and importance of Memorial Day. We honor those in the military who gave up their lives fighting to defend our nation – to defend us. As President Abraham Lincoln observed in the Gettysburg Address, they “gave the last full measure of devotion” to the cause of this land. A land they believed in. A land that was home.
I am not a veteran, but I have grown to appreciate the daily sacrifices of those in the military on bases, in our communities, or “down range” in harm’s way. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to visit and get to know members of our nation’s Armed Forces across services and ranks. And whether talking with a commanding officer, a young enlisted seaman, or a family sitting next to me in church that has to make life work while a mom or dad is deployed, my heart is filled with thanks for their service.
My heart also goes out to those who have lost loved ones in battle. I know I feel the ache when I remember a cousin of mine – a young soldier — killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq. I can only imagine the pain – likely mixed with a healthy pride – of those who lost fathers, mothers, spouses, sons, or daughters. These complicated feelings and honoring memories are central to Memorial Day.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)
I believe Memorial Day is good for me, an American Christian, to honor. It reminds me that there are strong causes – selfless causes – around which we can realign when we feel like our world is flailing. Principles of life and liberty that sparked our nation’s founding are rooted in an understanding of being precious creatures of God, made in His image. Causes faithful to such virtues are worth hope, work, and defense.
By remembering the selfless sacrifice of others, I am also challenged to re-center my heart and give thanks anew for the ultimate sacrifice made for us by the One who saves both our bodies and our souls. The One who calls us to love others as He loved us and said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
On Memorial Day, I pray that I would answer in my own heart President Lincoln’s challenge to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”