Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Lessons from a Cemetery
God graced me with another opportunity to visit our nation's capital city this past weekend. While I was there for my employer, I had some time to visit historical sites and definitely had plenty of time to pray and hear God in my hotel room.
One of the most overwhelming things I saw was the Arlington National Cemetery. A small group of us went to see the cemetery by moonlight, and while it was somewhat of a tearjerker, God really spoke to me about the principal behind this massive and prestigious monument.
He asked me a number of questions and drew my attention to a variety of details as I observed the cemetery. Right away, I noticed that all the tombstones were the same color, same size and same shape. They were all very simple and faced the same direction. They were laid out in perfect rows. These were the tombstones of men and women who have died for our country. These were the grave sites of those who have served in high positions of influence. I was amazed at the large number of stones as I heard the tour guide announce how they were designed and laid out to look like soldiers at attention.
God began to ask me, what if such a monument existed for martyrs - those who gave their lives for the Gospel? Would it be so massive? Would my people visit with the same respect, honor and dignity?
Immediately, I began to have a conversation with the Father and thoughts began to swarm my head. How many of us will truly honor God in our deaths? What would we really be remembered for?
I even began to think of the sacrifices the families make in order to commit the bodies of their loved ones to Arlington. They fly them in, ship them overseas - whatever it takes for them to have an honorary burial. Most of them won't be able to visit the grave sites often, and may not even be able to invite the entire family for the ceremony. Despite their life's accomplishments, these people are remembered for what they did for their country. They may have been great doctors and lawyers, awesome parents or successful entrepreneurs. Yet, they are buried there for one reason - to be honored and remembered for their services toward and on behalf of the USA. In the end, above all else, how many of us will be remembered and honored for what we've done for Christ?
Then, I thought again about the stones. God reminded me how many of the men were soldiers, yet some of them had more rank than others. Some were presidents. Some were corporals, while others were lieutenants. Yet, all the stones were alike. There was rank, but the cemetery does not stress that. In other words, rank allowed them to live and work as one body, but it was not allowed to thwart the vision or show separation from the cause at hand. In the end, the only thing that matters is their unity toward a cause - the freedom and protection of this country. How many of us can get past our rank long enough to just look like Christ? Can we get over ourselves and stop trying to force everyone to recognize our gifts and titles? Can we just work together, honoring the rank, but more importantly, working toward the building of the Kingdom of God?
If Christians had an "Arlington", how many of us would fuss making our own burial arrangements? "I'm a prophet, so my tombstone should be larger. Well, I'm a pastor, so I want an angel to sit on my stone. I'm an evangelist, so I'd like to have a Bible engraved in gold." How many of us could actually be content just looking like a unit? Would our families fight to make our grave sites "special" or would they understand our desire was simply to be known as a soldier for Christ? Even in life, when will we be willing to "blend in" as long as Christ gets the honor and the Father gets the glory? Can we survive without getting special recognition as long as unity is obtained and our goal is accomplished?
As I listened to God and pondered about this beautiful site, I was perturbed. Those in the world know how to unite for a cause, but the Body of Christ struggles as everyone wants to be an individual. Oh, God dealt with ME about so much that I do to seize an individual victory and accomplishment. Though we are known by our own names and our own "ranks" in the spirit, we should all look alike in the end. At the day of judgment, we will be honored based on our individual call to duty, and our ability to stand as a team. We may have individual assignments, but we should all talk and walk alike - in unison just like an army - just like those who have died for this country we are so blessed to live in.