Yesterday was one of the best days of my life—AND it was an incredibly sobering day as well. (NO, Lucretia is not pregnant!!!)
One of the first guys I remember meeting and bonding with after receiving Christ in 1990 was a dude named Tim Wilson. He and I established a solid friendship and even roomed together at Anderson College.
I have often heard it said that, when you get to the end of your life, if you have three good friends left then you are successful. Tim is one of those guys that I know will be there as my friend no matter what—this dude has seen me at my worst—and still likes hanging out with me.
After college Tim went to seminary and then began working in a church in Columbia. Before long he became the pastor of a church here in Anderson called Parkwood Baptist Church. He left an incredible legacy behind—the people at Parkwood still love him!
Tim and I would meet often for lunch—he was actually one of the few pastors in town that liked me. I noticed there was often a restless spirit in him—he was enjoying what he was doing, but felt like the Lord wanted him to do more.
God made His path for Tim very clear in 2002, he decided to go into the military as a chaplain. He was SO pumped about this decision…and I was as well because he said that he knew with 100% certainty that this is what God wanted.
Fast forward now to about 16 months ago—Tim is on leave and is back in the upstate with his family (he is stationed at Ft. Lewis Washington.) He and I are enjoying lunch together and he looked at me and said, “Perry—they are sending me to Iraq.”
I can’t explain how I felt—at that moment I was so proud of him; however, there was a lump in my throat and I became numb all over. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. No longer was the war in Iraq going to be “something else going on in the world,” now it was personal, Tim, one of my best friends in the world was going to be there.
Don’t worry—he survived—we ate lunch together yesterday (at Sullivan’s!) He told me about the year he experienced…and HOLY COW! Here lately I have felt overwhelmed because I have been doing battle with critics on the internet—but Tim has been under mortar fire, under the threat of suicide bombers, and has experienced what sniper fire is all about.
He was stationed in a place that you MAY have heard of if you have been following the war—it’s called Mosul! He experienced things I will probably never experience in my life—33 soldiers in his brigade were killed…and over 180 purple hearts were awarded to soldiers in his battalion.
You may remember December 21 of last year a dining hall being bombed by a suicide bomber in Mosul. Tim was supposed to be in that chow hall—but because of a car breaking down he was delayed and was not able to be there—talk about God’s hand!
The most intense story he told me about was what happened to him on November 11 of last year. He said that was the day that the first soldier was killed in his battalion. He said that he was talking to the medics and praying for the guy who had been shot and it got to the point where he had to walk away.
I asked him what was he feeling at that moment and he told me that all he could do was pray, he said, “God—what have I gotten myself into—I want to go home.” BUT then he said, “Lord, these men don’t need me, they need you,” and upon saying that he had an incredible sense of peace and KNEW that he was right where God wanted him to be. AMAZING!
I learned a lot yesterday—I learned that things don’t have to be peaceful around you in order for you to experience God’s peace; in fact, it is in the times when the fighting is most fierce that His peace can be the more real. I learned that, compared to what he has gone through, my problems have been relatively small.
One more thought before I conclude this post. I have kept up with the war—I still do even though Tim is at home. I care about our troops—I can about the leadership of this country—I care about what is happening over there—and it bothers me the way the media has turned it into a political circus.
Tim told me that what the media portrays to us is nowhere near what is going on. He told me a story of an Iraqi insurgent that shot an American soldier and was then wounded himself and taken prisoner by American forces…but before he was put into prison the Iraqi—the enemy—was taken into an US military hospital and was operated on by American doctors…and right next to him was the American he had shot. The media won’t tell that story. (You can read more about it here—this is an amazing blog!)
Tim, and other soldiers are fighting for America…and we are so guilty of getting caught up in fighting about church styles, theology, football teams…you name it. And all the while men and women like Tim are serving our country, defending our right to speak freely.
EVEN protestors of the war—you may not agree with what America is doing…you may be outspoken…you may hate our government; however, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ then I will say how dare you speak or utter a word of protest if you have never lifted up the leadership of our country in prayer. And the next time you see a soldier—instead of getting angry at him or her…why not thank them for defending your right as an American to speak what is on your mind.
Tim—thanks for hanging out with me yesterday—and thanks for allowing the Lord to teach me so much through you.