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by Hilary Tompkins
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Bearing the burden to remember
Remembering those who died for our freedom communalizes grief.
I used to spend Memorial Days during my childhood at a cemetery in Ames, OK, watching aged veterans remember their friends—strong men overcome by emotion, reflecting on events that we in the crowd could only imagine. Standing around these men, we all felt like outsiders in a sense, but year in and year out we were there. It was our community’s attempt to share the burden of remembering.
As a chaplain in the U.S. Army, the burden of remembering has fallen on my shoulders. The personal loss of dear friends, knocking on the door of a young family, physically holding up a new widow to hear the words she never wanted to hear has changed me and many in our profession. The transition from outsider to insider has not been a good one. What I have learned about remembering—our task on Memorial Day—is that remembering those who died for our freedom communalizes grief. Communalizing grief frees those who are imprisoned by grief and is the avenue by which the gospel of Jesus can bring healing to those wounded by loss. As a nation, we must do this and we all need to heal. We as Christians should be leading the way.
Grieving with the gospel
In Romans 12:15, Paul says that we are to mourn with those who mourn. Memorial Day grants us the privilege as a body of Christ to encircle those who have lost, remember those who have fallen, gather them in our arms and point them to the eternal hope we have in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Again Paul, in Romans 8:18–25, points to those hurting to gospel-centered hope.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
It is gives peace to know that the sufferings of this present age, however dark and deep, will be paled by the glory that is to be revealed in us. All of us, as a community wait now with eager longing for God to make this right. There will be a day when wars will cease and our sons and daughters will not be asked to preserve peace because God’s Son, Jesus Christ, will through his own death and sacrifice bring ultimate peace and freedom.
Mourning with hope
For those who mourn with broken hearts and shattered dreams, know that today we mourn with you, we as a community are brokenhearted. We mourn, however, with a patient hope, and as a community lean toward the day when Jesus will make all things new.
Find a Memorial Day service at a local or national cemetery, shake the hand of a veteran, hug a grieving spouse and grieve with them. Honor the men and women who have died in your place and point to the future hope we have in Jesus Christ.