“Happy Memorial Day!” We say this phrase, go to the beach, and buy merchandise on sale. Often, we do not even think about the day itself. But when we force ourselves to put down the distractions and honestly consider why we have a Memorial Day, we find it incredibly somber and overwhelming. Not exactly… happy.
This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home. … it’s not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom. – Tamra Bolton
What is happy about it? The only happiness associated with Memorial Day is the byproduct of freedom for which these men and women gave their lives. Did they want to be slain so future generations could selfishly go where they want, do what they want, and live how they want? Surely not. They did not go to war because they wanted their name engraved in a wall or have a burial at sea. Some (read: many) former soldiers did not want to be in the military at all.
My uncle missed the draft by a few months. Had he come into the world a year earlier, he could easily have been drafted and sent to Vietnam. When he was born altered the course of his life completely. Would he have married the woman I know as my aunt? There is no way of knowing. Would he have lived to father my cousins? A matter of months changed the course of his life.
Thousands of people died – some before they had a chance to reach adulthood – because freedom is not handed to us. Freedom takes courage and grit and sacrifice to gain; and endurance, vigilance, courage, grit, and sacrifice to keep.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. – G. K. Chesterton
What is Unlimited Freedom without Sacrifice?
We are so free in the USA that we can yell and scream about feeling marginalized. We can moan and complain about what others have which we do not. We can demand free stuff – education, healthcare, and housing, because… we deserve it! We are so spoiled we cannot see the freedom we have staring us in the face every day. We are so disconnected from history that we are giving up our freedoms and do not even see it.
The hard-fought gift of freedom feels like a birthright to those of us who have never seen war. We wake up each day, eat what we want, wear what we want, and go where we want without giving any thought to the anguish which bought us the very freedom we enjoy – or rather, the very freedom we take for granted.
Over the last several years, Eric and I have watched the news, viewed YouTube clips, and have read articles about the direction of the up-and-coming generations. Sometimes I wonder what is causing this entitlement and outrage behavior and beliefs? However, when we think about it, I suppose it is not that surprising. My generation and the generations behind me, outside of those who have chosen to serve our country in the armed forces, have only known freedom and (relative) peace. We have never been subject to the draft. We read about war in school, but we never lived it. We know people who fought in Desert Storm and the War on Terrorism, but we did not have to make the same sacrifices state-side as our grandparents did during World War II.
War, though awful and tragic, has a way of turning boys into men and girls into women. Most matters pale in comparison to the reality of ultimate sacrifice. When I consider what I complain about from day to day, I feel a ping of embarrassment. Road rage? More dishes to wash? Telemarketers calling me about my extended warranty again?!
Days like today – Memorial Day – can be a sobering shake up of our perspective.
Do You Feel Apathetic?
Though uncomfortable to admit, I spend a lot of my life feeling apathetic. I know the truth, but my fervor and actions for it does not match my beliefs. My mentor, Miss Betty’s, words ring in my ear often on those days when I feel so empty and useless, “A Christian should never be bored.” Christ-followers always have something to do… always.
When I think about Memorial Day, I think about how many people died in the name of freedom. On one hand, they sacrificed so I have the right to sit in my house, look out my window, and feel empty; but, is that the best way to honor their sacrifice? Is it the best way to honor Christ’s sacrifice? No. One of the best ways to honor the men and women who were not able to live out their dreams is to take this life we have and live it… to do something worthwhile with it. Rest is good and necessary; but making a mark for the sake of Christ is the primary goal.
Do you struggle with apathy? Do you watch the news and see the evil around you and yet feel a lack of energy or desire to jump in the fight? If so, I understand you. As much as I would love to label myself a fighter, I know I am a spectator by nature; but there is too much at stake for us to stay on our couches and hope for someone else to win the fight.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ? Edmund Burke
A Handful of Ways to Overcome Apathy
If you feel enslaved to apathy as I often do, consider adding some or all of the following to your life or routine:
- Study history. And not the modern, revisionist history. Look for original sources dedicated to giving an honest account of where we have been (in our world as a whole as well as individual countries). Dates to historical sites or watching historical documentaries can be great fun (did you hear that, Eric? Great fun! ~smile~).
- Interview older people. If you know someone who has served in a war or who has lived through extremely difficult times, sit with them and hear their story. We can learn so much from those who came before us. Especially if they do not have family in the area, graft some older people into your family and learn from them.
- Pray for our armed forces. Pray for those in harm’s way. Pray for the leaders who make decisions for our soldiers. Pray for the civilians caught in war torn areas who desperately want the peace we so often take for granted. Go to war on your knees in your prayer closet.
- Get involved. How can I help continue the fight for our freedom? How can I speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (cf. Proverbs 31:8-9)? How can I provide comfort for the heartbroken families left behind (Isaiah 61:1-3)? Should I run for office? Where can I serve? How can we use our relationship to make a change in our community? What can we do to help the constitutional systems maintain integrity? Be courageous.
Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering. – Theodore Roosevelt
I will not end this post by offering you a Happy Memorial Day; but, instead, I will wish you a Solemn Memorial Day. Whether you are working or vacationing, alone or with others, take some time today to honor the fallen. How can we actively honor their sacrifices? How can their stories inspire us to break free from our apathy about the freedom we currently enjoy?
In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918)
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.”
What will you do to break your apathy about the freedom we still have?