At East Lawn Cemetery in Indian Springs, my son and I with Trail Life Troop 633 were placing American flags on the graves of veterans. There were so many! Every few feet we encountered someone else who had served in the military. And they wanted you to know of their service. The tombstones told us in what branch of the military they had served and what conflict they served in. In just a few words, you could envision a little of their stories, and it made us hunger for more. Were they in the South Pacific? Or North Africa? What was it like?
With each flag they saluted, the Trail Life boys stood a little taller. They grew quiet as they contemplated how many people who had come before them had been brave in the hour of their nation’s need, and it lent all of us something we desperately needed: perspective.
Some might mourn the fact of being born in a time of crisis, but if I am reading the tombstones right, I am certain there is always a crisis. When in American history was there ever simply a great “Pax Americana?” There has always been a crisis. The question is whether we believe ourselves to face the moment of crisis alone, or whether we understand that we stand in a line of heroes through the ages who bore up under difficulty and allowed the true depth of their character to be revealed.
It is as Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. …”
I love that word! A “cloud” of witnesses! Not one, or two, or three, but many, and so many that there is a great cloud of those who were here before us, holding firm to the truth of the Gospel in the midst of famine, persecution, violence, heresy, grief and division. None of these things ever heralded the end for God’s people, and they won’t herald the end even now. Instead, their example emboldens us to trust Him more deeply, to anticipate His return, and to love others as deeply as God the Father has loved us.
Mike Beverly is the senior minister at Indian Springs Christian Church in Kingsport.