Memorial Day. In the past, we have had the typical BBQ or whatever celebration we were invited to. This morning, we drove to Bushnell for the annual Memorial Day program at the Florida National Cemetery. What a special time! We have driven through the cemetery once before and it was beyond impressive, but today was just such an emotional experience. To look out over those thousands of tombstones of our men and women who served and sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedom was just overwhelming. Freedom isn’t free.
As we left, I noticed a young mother and her toddler kneeling at a gravesite, her hand pressed to the stone. There was also an older woman doing the same and many other families wondering amongst the stones, seemingly looking for the memorial to their loved one. I had to wonder if they had the assurance that there loved one wasn’t there, but in an indescribable new home? Did they think the end came when their loved one took their last breath?
This cemetery will also serve as the final resting place of our earthly remains, so it had extra meaning because of that too. I have great comfort knowing that when we have taken our last breath, our children will know that Florida National Cemetery is just the last entry in our genealogical history. We are not there. We have gone home.
In His light,
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. — John 15:13–14
Looking out across the rolling wooded acres of Arlington National Cemetery, with its hundreds of thousands of white stones in perfectly ordered rows, brings an assortment of emotions that are impossible to escape. Sadness. Desolation. Pride of country. Anger over so many lost young lives. The stones represent tremendous loss as well as the gift of freedom we are able to enjoy.
Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., in Arlington County, Virginia. Within its 624 acres, over four hundred thousand active-duty service members, veterans, and their families have been buried. In addition to the military heroes, Arlington is also the final resting place for a select number of presidents, astronauts, senators, and Supreme Court justices. Founded during the dark days of the Civil War, the cemetery now contains the remains of military personnel from every American war — from the Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan.
But what about those of us who have never been called upon to lay down our lives in battle? Is the whole concept of “sacrifice” something for others and not for us? No! The Lord Jesus Christ calls each of His followers to a life of sacrifice, for His sake. The apostle Paul wrote,
Sacrifice isn’t just some dramatic final act of heroism. Sacrifice is also laying down our privileges, benefits, and pleasures for the good of someone else. The book of Hebrews says,
Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. — Hebrews 13:16
We may yet be called on to give up our lives on earth for the sake of another. But in the meantime, Jesus calls us to daily follow Him by giving more attention, care, love, time, and help to others than we give to ourselves.
Lord Jesus, sometimes my sacrifices seem so small, so insignificant, compared with those who have given so very much. But my goal today is to follow You with all my heart, being ready to set aside my own plans and pleasures whenever You call me to.
Sacrifice is a daily determination to put the needs of others before our own.
Excerpted with permission from Seeing God In America, copyright Thomas Nelson.