The silence was deafening as the cars slowed to a stop. The 1940s recording began blaring across the speaker system. Everyone stood to attention for the American national anthem as the tune spread through every corner of the European base.
Traffic stopped. Those walking paused. All attention was directed solemnly toward this one melody.
This was a frequent scene of my childhood. Every weekday at dusk, the tune played and all activities ground to a halt. Men in uniform saluted, pledging renewed devotion to service and sacrifice.
It was as if these simple chords caused a harmony of silence. Silence to stop, to listen, to reflect.
Sacrifice and Service
As a military kid, listening to the British, German, and Dutch national anthems gave me insight into each country’s history. Living in other countries taught me about different cultures. And being a part of the military showed me a picture of what it’s like to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3 ESV).
People may assume that those with roots in the military carry an attitude of disdaining pride. “Oh, my country is better than your country.” After all, we seem patriotic. We risk suffering and loss for our nation. We support those on the front lines.
But for me, my years as a military kid taught me the significance of sacrifice and service. Not just that of my country’s service members. Other countries have service members who do their quiet duty without recognition.
I also understand that for many people, the military is not a positive influence in their country. However, my experience has allowed me to understand the quietness of one who understands the cost. The cost of lost time with loved ones who may no longer be alive or the cost of not seeing a service member for months at a time.
Silence of Sacrifice
One family vacation I will never forget was when my dad took us to a memorial in Luxembourg. The memorial is the final resting place for over 5,000 people who died in WWII.
Sacrifice of Death
I was humbled to look out over the 5-acre graveyard and be reminded of the rigors of war. The pain of loss. The sting of death. I felt a deep sense of sadness as if I were one of the mourners grieving over a life that war had cut short.
I stood at the gravesite and wondered, “Did these people know the One who paid the ultimate sacrifice? Do I truly understand the cost of sacrifice in my life, and am I thankful for it?”
Sacrifice of Life
Sacrifice requires us to give up something of great value.
Christ sacrificed His heavenly home and became a man. He came to a people who despised and rejected Him (Isa. 53:3). He gave up His life to die in their place.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world ... and were by nature children of wrath … But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Ephesians 2:1–5 NKJV
Christ died for His enemies and freed us from the power and bondage of sin. His death brought us true life. Death does not have the final word in our lives.
The sacrifice of life points us to the One who paid the ultimate price and reminds us of how finite we truly are.
It is in the silence of sacrifice, where artifice is pushed away, that we see what truly matters.
Silence of Service
Merriam-Webster defines patriotism as “love of or devotion to one’s country.” As TCKs, it is hard to have devotion to a single place. We devote our efforts to making each space we are in livable.
As a military kid who spent 14 years overseas, the question, “What is an American?” weighed heavily on me.
Service to Country
I am devoted to my parents’ country only because my dad was devoted to serving and being faithful in his service. The way we, his kids, behaved was a reflection of Dad. The higher the rank, the more responsibility. The more responsibility, the less we saw of him.
For Dad, being devoted meant serving well at his job even in the grime of being a mechanic on airplanes that constantly broke down. Seeing his service was a reflection for me of being a devoted citizen of heaven.
Service to Christ
We serve Christ in the grime of daily living. Each day brings us closer to going home. We have a choice to serve Him well or to grumble when the mundane tasks become drudgery.
Philippians 3:14 comes to my mind: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). My choices shape my goals. God has called me to His service, and His goal for me is that as I press forward, I would look more like Christ.
Service in the Mundane
Even the mundane task of dishes can become a way of serving as each day brings us closer to seeing Christ. For me, doing the dishes is a sanctifying process. It has taken me a long time to change my heart to see this task as honoring the Lord and serving others.
I disliked doing dishes as a kid, especially in a family of eight, as they never seemed to end. Watching my dad come home from work in his uniform, fragrant with burning engine oil, made me aware of what serving faithfully or pressing forward can look like in the ordinary moments of everyday living.
As citizens of heaven, we devote ourselves to faithfully serving Christ in every task we undertake. We will not always be recognized for our efforts in the immediacy of the moment.
Devotion to Christ
If you and I are in Christ, then we are devoted to Christ even more than we are to all our heart countries. Our citizenship is sealed in heaven, bought by the sacrifice of Christ, who even now serves at the right hand of the throne of God, praying for us (Rom. 8:34).
This thought humbles me in that my ultimate example who sacrificed for me and served others while here on earth still serves by interceding on my behalf. I can come boldly before the throne of God with my own requests in asking for a heart that will help me run this race of life well.
The love of Christ shows us how to love those around us well. After all, we will one day gather from every tongue, tribe, and nation as one. We will stand before the throne, crying out with loud voices, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9–10 NKJV)
What a truly great anthem. Worthy is the Lamb!