Army service answers deeper questions of life’s meaning

| October 25, 2013 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Todd
84th Engineer Battalion
8th Military Police Brigade
8th Theater Sustainment Command

I recently asked some of the members of my unit: “What is the meaning and purpose of your life?”

Some responded with quick one-word answers; others took more time and reflected on the question.

For many people, the answer goes beyond what we want, what we see right in front of us, even beyond what we are striving to build in our personal, professional or spiritual lives. It’s a question that challenges what we believe about ourselves and our lives, values, futures and ability to impact it all.

Toward the end of my last Afghanistan deployment, I recall sitting at the base of a guard tower looking over the beaten blast wall, through the twisted strands of concertina wire, into the valley north of Assadabad. The days had been long and tedious, with back-to-back missions. I sat quietly with a few infantry Soldiers and enjoyed the rare gift of a peaceful twilight as the adrenaline and caffeine worked their way out of our bloodstreams.

As the darkness fell, I remember looking at family photographs of a newborn son and the proud father. The conversation turned to home and family.

It was in the midst of this sacred time one Soldier asked, “Why do we do this?” It is a question that deserves careful thought.

I am convinced that every member of our nation’s military proved his courage the day he raised his hand and swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Most of the Soldiers on active duty today joined during a time of war, and many did so because they desired to defend our country against those who would threaten our freedoms. Their service and their sacrifice is a standing testimony of their dedication to make the defense of our nation and its citizenry their personal responsibility.

Our military community knows well their quality of sacrifice. Living out this quality is perhaps the greatest act of godly love of which we’re capable. In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Indeed, true love cannot exist without sacrifice.

We talked late into the evening that night in Afghanistan. We spoke of life, love, family and sacrifice. We talked of dedication, legacy, faith and God. We pondered why we left behind lives of comfort and safety in exchange for hardship and peril, and considered why we “stand at the door,” look into the night and step forward into the fight, knowing the cost.

For many, it was the ultimate cost.

“What is the meaning and purpose of your life?”

The answer can be elusive, but I believe this question is answered in our love for God and for each other. The most important commandment ever given is recorded: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Perhaps one of the most difficult questions ever asked has one of the simplest answers ever offered. Our lives have greater meaning when we are dedicated to something greater than ourselves.

My life has meaning because of the good God has done for others, through me, because of the love he has shown through me for his purpose and to his glory.

How about you? What is the meaning and purpose of your life?

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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