Approaching Memorial Day, my thoughts are of all who gave their lives in war that we and so many around the world might live in freedom. Their battles on the field and in the mind are not what we who have never been there can truly fathom.
We can listen to or read survivors’ stories, hear of their fears amid tales of bravery, empathize with the sadness and trauma as they share the loss of buddies and who and what they might have become, consider questions relating to the whys and wherefores of war and the lessons learned, but we can never fully comprehend unless we’ve been there. I’m very thankful for all who have served for the sake of freedom, but especially remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Yet, even this season of coronavirus pandemic has been compared to war with an invisible enemy. Here and around the world we’ve battled an infection that struck unexpectedly.
Our medical professionals grew weary on the battlefront, facing daily unknowns while being the sole comfort of those dying without family present. We faced the loss of family and community members, not to mention the toll among the greater world community. We saw unemployment numbers skyrocket, houses of worship closing for a time, businesses being shuttered forever, long lines of the weary waiting patiently for free food, arrests of those trying to open their business to normalcy while hardened criminals are released from jail only to commit crimes again, and we’re left with doubts and fears. Will life ever be normal again?
I have doubts and fears, too. If we’re honest, we all do. We think we’re not good enough and will never measure up. We may doubt our abilities or skills, fear a lack of control in certain situations, or fear the unknown future. We look for accolades to prop us up, to make us feel better about ourselves, trying to prove that we really are someone of some importance.
But I have to ask: whose voice am I listening to? That inner voice which berates me for every mistake, every misstep, every poor choice or selfish deed, even looking for praise… or, am I listening in humility to God’s gentle nudging, that quiet voice in my soul from His deep and tender love? A number of times I’ve been nudged with a gentle inner whisper, while other times I’ve heard His voice speak loud and clear.
Unfortunately, I have not always listened and reacted as I should have. My will, my desired outcome, got in the way of God’s voice. I need to remember to “be still, and know that [He is] God.” (Psalm 46:10a) For when I quiet my frantic ruminations and sit still, humbly and quietly waiting to hear the Lord’s guiding words, it’s then that my heart is receptive, and my doubts and fears subside.
Open to profound wisdom and examples of Christ’s love in the world around us, I recall “Blood Brothers” from M*A*S*H (April 6, 1981). This episode is a classic, my favorite about the medical unit’s priest, Father Francis Mulcahy. I appreciate his quiet gentle ways, words of wisdom, and deep humility, yet I also appreciate that he is not so “holier than thou.”
Like the rest of us in many ways, he reveals a temper flare at times. Knowing his superior, Cardinal Reardon, is scheduled to visit and review what Mulcahy has accomplished at the 4077th, the good Father wants everything and everyone around him to show perfection—including his own sermon. Instead, Mulcahy becomes cranky and frantic with constant interruptions from side issues. Oh, so like me at times!
In the midst of feeling sorry for himself, Father Mulcahy learns that Capt. Pierce has just diagnosed one of his patients with an incurable disease. Offering his own blood for his severely wounded best friend, a young soldier is told he has leukemia and can’t give blood. Arguing about plans to send him out the next morning to the hospital in Seoul, Pvt. Gary Sturgis insists to frustrated Capt. Pierce that he wants to stay. A matter of days won’t bring him a cure, and it’s more important that he be at his buddy’s side when his wounded and unconscious friend wakes up. Ultimately, Father Mulcahy sits down and talks with Sturgis.
The next morning, Cpl. Max Klinger searches for and finally finds the Father still in his pajamas and bathrobe, engrossed in conversation with Sturgis. Suddenly realizing the entire night has passed them by, Mulcahy is self-conscious and visibly upset at himself. Totally unprepared to face the Cardinal and his congregants, Mulcahy enters the mess tent used for the worship service. Stumbling over apologies for his lateness, disheveled appearance, and lack of a well-written sermon, Father Mulcahy decides to simply tell the truth.
“I want to tell you about two men. Each facing his own crisis. The first man you know rather well. The second is a patient here. Well, the first man thought he was facing a crisis. But what he was really doing was trying to impress someone. He was looking for recognition, encouragement, a pat on the back. And whenever that recognition seemed threatened, he reacted rather childishly. Blamed everyone for his problems but himself, because he was thinking only of himself. But the second man was confronted with the greatest crisis mortal man can face—the loss of his life. I think you will agree that the second man had every right to be selfish. But instead he chose to think not of himself, but of a brother. A brother! When the first man saw the dignity and the selflessness of the second man, he realized how petty and selfish he had... I... I... I had been! It made me see something more clearly than I've ever seen it before. God didn't put us here for that pat on the back. He created us so He could be here himself. So, He could exist in the lives of those He created in his image.”
What great words to live by. We truly have a purpose in life! We can learn so much from others around us in examples of Christ’s love… even as we’re in the world, but not of it. (John 17:14-16) Just as our “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), so should our doubts and fears disappear in the presence of our Lord. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord…is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3,4)
It’s not the inner negatives nor the adulation I hope to hear that matters. It’s where my heart resides in humility as I seek our Lord’s approval. As we each grow in faith, we look to God to guide us through our fears and doubts of inadequacy or inferiority that plague our thoughts, the negativity which so easily berates us… remembering and recognizing that we belong to God, and are loved beyond measure by Him. Christ lives in us as we become His hands and feet to reach others. In bringing Him our praise, we will hear His still small voice in our hearts, removing all doubts and fears that assail no matter what we face.
When Doubts Assail…
When doubts assail look up beyond self
Focus on truth from wisdom above.
Take heart from His words spoken in peace
And know He holds you in the palm of His hand.
When doubts assail know you’re not alone
There’s Someone who cares, your burden to bear.
He’ll give you His peace and provide a way through
As darkest of nights emerge in new dawn.
When doubts assail and plague your heart
Thinking your worth isn’t good enough,
That you could never measure up in life,
Know there is Someone who believes in you.
When doubts assail and fears haunt your path
Speak softly in prayer and listen for His voice,
That gentlest nudge stirring in your soul,
As He guides your steps in the way you should go.
When doubts assail be eager to learn
At the feet of Him whose wisdom excels,
Bask in His love and dwell in His presence
Building your faith to prosper in truth.
When doubts assail lift your voice in song
Glorify His name with reverence and awe,
For Holy is He, full of mercy and grace…
As a child of the King, you’re loved beyond measure.
This reflection and poem were initially published on my blog, Poetic Devotions.