“Thank-you for your service.”
Even though my chest puffs up a little when I hear those words, deep inside, I feel a little sick. I’m no hero.
That’s what one veteran told me recently. He couldn’t look me in the eye. In fact, he couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Have you felt that way? Sometimes it’s hard to put into words what’s eating away at us. What if we can’t look at our spouse? Our family. Our kids. Our friends. What if they see how we really are on the inside? Hurting. Helpless to make it stop. Ashamed. Guilty. So guilty. Guilty that we let our buddy go first, and he didn’t come home. Guilty that we tried to quiet the loneliness with the wrong thing. What if they could see? What if they could see what we can’t forget? What we can’t undo?
I’m sorry that you’re hurting. Thank you for your willingness to serve. Thank you for going to war so others didn’t have to. Welcome home. The world doesn’t look the same anymore, does it? The people we loved when we left might not look the same. We might not feel the same way. Things are just different now. So what can we do? The battlefield has followed us home. It has to have an end, a boundary. What can we do to move on?
In my search for an answer, I was led to these words that Jesus spoke in the Bible, recorded in the Book of Matthew, and stopped to take a deeper look at what they meant.
Here’s what I found:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
As I read this passage, I can picture Jesus kneeling down, with his arms on a soldier’s shoulder. He’s helping him drop the heavy rucksack, take off all the gear, and finally set down his helmet and fill his canteen with cool water. Then he listens as the soldier tells the stories, never flinching, never judging. When the stories finish, they walk out shoulder to shoulder, stronger together.
Come. The invitation is there for us to lay our burdens down. There’s nothing we can bring God that will surprise Him or shake Him. We can lay down our heavy, burdened hearts, our experiences, our struggles. We can tell Him what happened. We can tell Him how we feel about it. “…and I will give you rest.”. Rest. When was the last time someone offered us rest?
Take. What does it mean to take up His yoke? It means we can trust Him. We can surrender this load that we are carrying. We don’t have to carry it alone. Even if nobody we know understands, He will. We matter to Him, each of us does. Let Him show us the way through this. Let Him lead us to a better place. When we ‘take up His yoke’, we choose to listen to Him and to obey His commands. Unlike other commands we may have heard, His commands are always good and true, and have our best in mind.
Learn. This is where we finally find peace. Once we have trusted Him with our burdens, once we realize He hasn’t bailed on us, gotten frustrated with us, or been disappointed in us, we can relax. Now we can learn from Him and begin to walk forward to life after our experiences. We can finally look up and walk towards the horizon. This is where healing happens. He will redeem and restore the losses, the betrayals, the mistakes, the broken hearts, and the empty, lonely places. He will teach us His promises and the life he has planned for us. Finally, we can have Peace.
We’re ready to listen if you’re ready to talk. We won’t judge you. We won’t be scared off by what you share. We’ve all walked a different road, served in our own battlefields, but each of us have found hope in a brighter future. You can, too. We may not have been where you have been, or seen what you have seen, but we can still share the load and walk the road together for awhile. You are not alone, and you matter to us here.