I’ll never forget the day back in early January 2002.
I was at my desk in the operations office of the company I was managing (no… I wasn’t always a pastor). One of the guys who worked for me came striding in with a big smile and a lot of excitement… slapped his hands on my desk and said, “today! I am going to change your life!”.
He wasn’t just ‘a guy who worked for me’, he was a friend. I was 29 at the time… he was 19. He was a little wild and crazy… pulling into our parking lot each morning with a loud, muddy Jeep. We were both martial arts enthusiasts and used to get together in the local park to practice fighting with one another. More than a few times we created a stir among picnicing families. At that time, he reminded me a lot of what I was like a decade earlier.
He was also a committed Christian… and I was a struggling seeker of truth, faith and peace. Many nights we would be the last ones at the company… and he would take time to tell me the story of his faith in God. And I listened, wondering if I would ever have a story like that.
“Today! I am going to change your life!”, he said, “I am joining the Marines… you should too!”.
I had confessed to him at one point that I regretted not enlisting in the Marines when I had a good opportunity to do so in 1992. He saw the post-911 opportunity to serve and fight as an opportunity for both of us… for him to make a good start to his adult life, and me… a chance to make a difference and get rid of the regret. He joined… I didn’t.
While he was over in Iraq serving on the front lines of the first offensive I was in New Jersey making sense of my life and faith. He returned home and told me of the horrors and triumphs of battle, and I told him of my steps and leaps of faith. In 2004, he was floored… but excited when I told him I was going to seminary to become a pastor. Just before my seminary graduation… just a few weeks prior to Memorial Day 2007… he was killed in Iraq.
This is not the story I had in mind when wondering about my faith story.
In Acts 7 Stephen answers his accusers, critics, and the stones they were throwing, with the story of faith (all of the great heroes of the Scriptures and what they did in service to God). As we read (and please read Acts 7) we see that Stephen’s story was connected with the great heroes and stories of faith… God’s great story. It must have been this… as much as anything else… that gave Stephen the courage to face his own death. He was killed.
This Memorial Day weekend let’s remember those whose stories gave them courage to make the ultimate sacrifice… and let’s remember that they are the heroes of our stories as we continue on.
I miss you my friend.