Compounding the uncertainty of just where we are going with the Covid-19 Pandemic is the separation from our churches on the Sunday that begins the Christian Holy Week. We are sitting at home on a foggy, damp and cool morning, while the pundits on television continue the conversation about how bad things are. It is Palm Sunday, and many folks are pondering the void between Christianity and science. I am sharing a story about one man that crossed the line between science and the Almighty in a rather dramatic eleventh hour save. This man was my father.
He was born into very poor circumstances, quitting High School before graduating and joining the Army at the direction of a justice of the peace who offered him a choice between the military and the streets that he was fond of fighting on. He had been provided precious little parental guidance growing up, and certainly was not exposed to the benefits of organized religion. He adapted easily to the rigors of life as an enlisted man in the aftermath of WWII and beginning of a “Police Action” in the Korean Peninsula, where he distinguished himself, earning a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant. This was his element, and he was awarded two Silver Stars, a handful of Bronze Stars with V Devises, a Purple Heart and still more ribbons associated with a warrior. His career ended with his elevation to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army’s Special Forces. He was comfortable with killing, not a bad attribute for a combat officer, and was a natural leader. Throughout his distinguished military career, he kept the Lord and organized religion at arms length. You see, he could not reconcile his lifestyle and mission with the alleged omnipotence of the Master. He would support the troops in his command as they sought the comfort of their religion, but his support was shallow. His lack of exposure to the tenants of religion resulted in an established belief that if the Lord existed, he was failing mankind in the environment that he relished.
Flash forward to the young Colonel, laying on his deathbed, a mighty warrior reduced to 85 pounds of suffering humanity, knowing that his exit from the earth was eminent. I was there with him, at a military hospital in South Carolina when after a short conversation, he asked me to find a Chaplain to talk with him. I did as he asked and brought the surprised Chaplain to his bedside. I stepped out while they talked for nearly an hour. When the door was opened, the Chaplain assured me that all was as it should be and the Colonel appeared to be at ease. He died quietly the next morning, gazing out of the window to his room, as the sounds of marching troops resonated through the halls of the old wooden hospital. A few days later, the Colonel was laid to rest among those he deeply loved, in a National Cemetery, in Florence, SC. A simple cross adorns his tombstone, so that folks would understand he is one with God.
This eleventh hour save is illustrative of the void between science and Christianity. A void that is the fodder of talk show hosts and other prominent figures who laugh at Christianity and refer to God as a ghost lacking credibility. You see, there is no mathematical solution to lend dignity to the concept of faith, a central component in the prospect of life after death. Christianity is losing it’s grip on this world, and the ability to benefit from an eleventh hour save is seldom proffered. I suspect that many of us have prayed fervently in situations that seemed hopeless, successful prayers if you are able to read this musing. The Colonel made a decision and asked the question, can I afford to leave this world without begging forgiveness for the things I have done and seen. The Pandemic is the equivalent of the Colonel’s combat hell, and a man not predisposed to do so, talked with the Lord and received the counsel necessary to understand the gap between science and faith. We can do the same.
It is rough out there right now. Is there any good reason why we can’t put faith to work for us as the scientists, guided by the Master’s Hand, unscramble the mysteries of this deadly virus? If faith can move a crusty old warrior on his deathbed, it can move us. That is the lesson here.
Have a wonderful Holy Week, count your blessings, and pray for those we have lost. If we join them, do so with God at your back.