The bumper sticker on my car reads: “I may look harmless but I raised a U.S. Marine.”
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 the battalion commander. He finished his enlistment, came home and went to college for a year and 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 an ROTC program, and enter a branch of service as an officer. He was accepted at a university and 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.