I was all set today to write about anxiety, but now sitting down in front of the keyboard I’m compelled to have one of my “off message” moments and talk about a recent bit of news. Please forgive me. I promise to return “on message tomorrow.”
The blurb in the paper and the off comments on the nightly news remind us that this week marks the two thousandth American soldier killed in Afghanistan. Unreported were the thousands who return home missing a limb, suffering from PTS (Post Traumatic Stress), or other permanent disabling injuries. Those who attend a war tend to carry it, in one form or another, inside them forever. Yet the drums of war continue to beat. Why?
It has often been remarked that the long journey home from war that forms the books of the Odyssey present a continuing metaphor for the Western World. Ulysses spent ten years trying to find a way home after being victorious in the Trojan War. Often those who lose a war are left to bury the dead, while those who win find themselves far away from home in some way. To summarize a famous poem every war has two losers; for war is kind to no one and brutal to most. The effects continue to burn within the soul long after the fires have been put out and the bodies are buried. Perhaps the real Trojan horse is war itself which can appear so noble and shining, yet can eat away at a person and gnaw at a culture from the inside for many years after the battles are over. Have the lessons of Vietnam been lost so easily?
Thomas Wolfe’s famous statement that we can’t go home again applies to soldiers and non-combatants like most of us. We may not leave our city or town, but life’s wars change us all. We are not the same people we were years or decades earlier. Burned into our soul are life’s experiences and whether we return victorious or in defeat we are not the same as before. To this day, it remains easier for a nation to undertake war than to recover from it. The same applies to the wars to be successful and admired. Even though we may be victorious, for a time the grand causes that seem to justify our battles tend to fade over time, while the traumatic effects of war linger and malinger inside those who survive.
Only in God’s home is comfort always afforded, and we find that whether we return to God in success or in failure, our return is always made easy. Perhaps why is because God travels with us wherever we go and wherever we wage our personal wars.