I sit weekly with citizens returning from prison. I’ve noticed that many exhibit some of the same symptoms of traumatic stress that veterans exhibit who are returning home from combat tours: hyper vigilance, anger, difficulty sustaining relationships. Some returning citizens find solace in communities of faith where they are welcomed unconditionally. This enables them to start their lives over. Neither warriors nor ex-offenders can change a painful past. But a different future opens up to them when they experience, some for the first time ever, a genuine self-respect that comes from being loved unconditionally. Paul the Apostle said it well where he wrote that those who are in Christ are a new creation. “Behold, the old is gone, the new has come.”
A member of the Interfaith Veterans’ Workgroup, Judy Adams, sent me the following meditation from a pastor friend of hers, Donna Drayne. Thanks, Donna, for giving me permission to share it here.
Earlier this week I was reading an editorial written by a retired Green Beret, SFC Gregory Stube. This veteran began his story with these words: “You think about a lot of things when you’re in a hospital bed with tubes in you and pieces of your body sewn back on, all the while knowing you really should be dead. At first, how you judge yourself is the worst of it….I had been a Green Beret for 18 years. I was physically tough and had all these skills earned in sweat and blood. But after being blown up, shot and badly burned on a battlefield in Afghanistan, I found I’d only worked to harden the parts that had been blown up and burned away.” SFC Stube, through months and months of physical healing time came to discover that even though his “outside” was healing, it was his inside that remained unhealed.
He discovered that others perceived him as a “wounded warrior,” someone who became defined by his wounds and his limitations, a victim of war.
He determined that this defeatist view was not who he wanted to be. And that is when he knew that what he wanted to be defined by was what was on his inside….and that he wanted to treat each person individually with respect and human dignity….not as some scarred and wounded victim. Thus he concluded, “From that basis we can conquer anything.”
I think that is exactly what Jesus sees in each of us….not our wounds and scars and limitations, but what’s inside us. Paul wrote in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It’s not important that others want to drag us down or limit us because of what we look like on the outside (isn’t that how they delude themselves into thinking they must be better than we are????). What’s important is our inside bursting forth to show others that we know the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Conquering anything begins with what is in our heart…………is that the Holy Spirit or is it something else?
Paul also wrote in 2nd Corinthians 5:16-17: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We conquer the old us through Christ and find the new us when the Holy Spirit is allowed to reside in our heart….we are new in Christ!
And once we fill ourselves with the qualities which Jesus knows are already inside of us – kindness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, humility, loving God and loving neighbor, serving others – then we are on the right track to conquering anything. We can rest assured it is well with our soul!
May His peace and joy fill you today as you see the world from the inside out………Donna
On the PCOC Ministry Team, and President of the Interfaith Veterans’ Workgroup, headquartered at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant