This weekend we will be reminded often of the self-sacrifice of those Americans who died in military service.
From those who died of pneumonia at Valley Forge or from cannonfire at Gettysburg to those who drowned trying to reach the beaches of Normandy or were beaten lifeless in the “Hanoi Hilton,” many have given the ultimate human sacrifice.
Often considered on the same level are the occasional police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders killed in the midst of a rescue effort or an attempt to end a threat to public safety.
Most of us won’t have our lives taken in battle or die pulling a child from a flaming building, but in some measure self-sacrifice is our duty as well.
Occasionally, we mere mortals get to practice dramatic forms of self-sacrifice – the junior high boy who, armed only with a gift for sarcasm, risks the wrath of a bully to save his friend from harm; the college coed who works up the courage to tell her roommate’s parents that their daughter may be suicidal; the grandmother who opens her door to a scared child she’s never seen before.
More often, self-sacrifice comes in small but persistent doses.
And, of course, parenting is a series of sacrifices – accepting stretch marks and enduring labor, slogging through years of croup and poop, giving up Poker Night in favor of Daddy Date Night and trading in the convertible for a Mom-mobile. It can mean maternity leave from a promising career or giving up a promotion to keep the kids nearer their grandparents.
Self-sacrificial parenting is holding one’s breath when Junior takes his first bike ride and sometimes holding one’s tongue in the face of Sissy’s adolescent assertions. It can be years of Brownie Scout meetings and years of brown-bagging to save money for braces and books.
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who lived in Kentucky, noted the difficulty of the lifelong denial of self.
“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice,” he wrote. “It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”
The Apostle Paul expressed a similar thought when he gave Christians these marching orders:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
Such lives would honor not only our war dead but our living God.
NEMS Daily Journal