A good friend of mine just voluntarily extended his contract with the Marine Infantry so that he could go to Iraq. As someone who’s been there before and who’s a leader of younger, less-experienced Marines, he felt that he could do some good by going. So he set aside his dreams for his future, and made a commitment to serve. Remarkably, he’s the second person in my immediate circle of friends to do so. The other returned earlier this year from his 4th tour in the war zone.
In reflecting on my friends’ decisions I was both saddened and amazed. Saddened because it is my desire for those I love to be as far away from danger as possible. Amazed because that type of sacrifice is worthy of our applaud. I find applauding the decisions astonishingly more difficult though when you know the people putting their life on the lines. It’s easier to praise when unknown faces are making the sacrifice. When it’s someone you care about, the pride in their character is mitigated by fear. The selfish part of me is quite willing to read about the sacrifice of others in the news, but doesn’t want her friends to do the same. I want them safe, protected, and able to live out their dreams, not in harm’s way where danger lurks.
And I’ve realized that a lot of life is like this. We want people to be remarkable, to willingly sacrifice and to give up their normal life so that we are protected, but most of us don’t want those to be our friends, our sons or our daughters. We can praise courageous acts more easily when the ones who pay the price aren’t those we love. Which makes God’s sacrifice of His son all the more remarkable. Not only did He shed a life for our sins, but the life of His most loved one was given. It wasn’t the sacrifice of an “other”; the sacrifice was His.
If we were to recognize that God’s sacrifice was complete and total, maybe we’d be more willing to sacrifice ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, we’d applaud a little louder when those we love do the same.