I have so much to tell you. (PLEASE PLEASE read all the way through.)
First things first.
Back in October, 2015, I met the lovely Jamie Ivey on an airplane on the way to Allume. Of course, I had no idea who she was and had never listened to her podcast show, The Happy Hour. As these things go with me, I spilled my guts all over her because I hadn’t spoken to another adult in DAYS.
She was gracious enough to listen, and much to my surprise, later invited me onto her show to tell our story of this Army life, of fear, of grief, of grace, and so much joy. It airs today, and it would be a great, and humbling honor for you to listen. (Editor’s note: Jamie is an incredible interviewer and I am so encouraged listening to the Happy Hour. I recommend you subscribe and listen as she chats with women about their stories, and their clear passion for the Body of Christ.)
This is the most vulnerable I have ever been on a public stage and it is terrifying and good and hard.
My fervent prayer is that God and the gospel would be center stage in our story.
I hope you hear that in my words.
And to Jamie, thank you for the opportunity to share my heart with your people. You can download the Happy Hour from her website, or go to iTunes and just go ahead and subscribe. You know you want to.
I don’t know that I have the right words to say what I am about to say.
I don’t know that there are the right words for this.
I tell Jamie in our interview for the show that during my Army career, the Lord protected me from ever having to take a life.
As I was listening back this morning, sweating and trying not to throw up at the gym, it occurred to me that maybe that sentence needed a little clarification.
So please read and know this: I don’t know how and why the Lord chose the trajectory for our lives. I don’t understand, and wrestle greatly with the fact that He did not spare other good men and women from being in that position.
I certainly didn’t and don’t deserve the mercy I’ve been given in this life. I recognize that the weave in our story could be so very different, and good or bad, it would be the consequence of decisions I willingly made.
There are thousands upon thousands of soldiers who have sacrificed far more than I ever could, and made the hardest choices a person can make in the heat of combat. I am humbled to know many of them. We are who we are as a nation, good and bad, built on the backs of those men and women.
Ten days ago, after this interview, an old friend and three time combat veteran lost his life after a long struggle with PTSD. He was one who made the hardest choices, for his comrades, and his country.
How do I reconcile my experience with his? I don’t have an answer for that.
My heart is breaking for his family, and for the demons he had to contend with. Maybe I get to tell a little of my story so I can tell you his, and Original Jaime, and CW3 Buoniconti and the others who live, but live broken among us. Maybe I can tell you when you say thank you, they don’t quite know how to respond because it feels so wrong to be thankful for living, to be grateful for the moments that have shattered them.
I don’t know either. Let me just say this, as I’ve said so many times before.
In a letter written to his wife on the eve of the battle of Bull Run, Major Sullivan Ballou wrote the following …
“I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .”
To my fellow veterans, and their families … thank you. We can never, ever actually repay it, this debt we bear.
And, when heaven and earth is laid before me, and I wrestle wearily with the things of men, my battered heart takes note of what my Heavenly citizenship entails.
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God” (1 Peter 2:13-16).
And, oh, friends, the freedom of serving the Architect of the very Universe-the Namer and Counter of stars-means I don’t need to know how or where, or even when the quiet comes.
And I can grieve, and still be grateful, for all this life entails.
This interview, y’all, it wrecked me a little. In light of recent loss, in bringing up emotions long ago dealt with, in the knowledge of the Lord’s good and gracious undeserved mercy in my life.
I dedicate this story, this interview to my friend, Charles Andrew Newman. We love and miss you brother.