Does my life really matter to anyone?
| Jack's shoulders rippled with well developed muscles. His passion for lifting huge amounts of weight had paid off with a sculptured body and he enjoyed being an envy magnet. Since he resembled a super hero in his build, he was usually assigned the heavy lifting in the “Forgotten War,” Jack carried the radio for his patrol, and this beast weighed close to a hundred pounds. Less able men stumbled under the burden, but Jack always smiled as he strapped it on his back.
Like all wars, the Korean War was fought over land. In the early 1950’s, North and South aided by outside super powers, exchanged bullets and death over an imaginary line called the 38th Parallel. Jack served in the 1St Marine Division and was on the ever shifting front line. As we sat drinking coffee one morning some sixty years later, Jack began to talk about the war. In my thirty-eight years of knowing him he had never done so before. “The day began like any other day,” he said. “Oh, I wasn’t on the front line that day, it was about 100’ north of me.” Like many days before, it was Jack’s turn to take a patrol and look for snipers and ambushes. As he was getting ready to begin another solider said, “Hey Kress, let me take your place today, I need to do something this afternoon.” Jack, always eager for a few more minutes of relaxation, said he could and grinned as he adjusted the rock under his head somehow trying to make it a bit more comfortable.
Like so many other days, the solider did not survive that patrol. Estimates say that there were about 2 million men that did not come back from that war, and about 35,000 brave American soldiers were lost in the mayhem, but not Jack. He came home without a scratch. The irony was not lost on him. A chance, spur of the moment decision was the difference between life and death for Jack. Was it just chance?
Jack, like many returning men from war, reintegrated into life. He devoted his life to weight lifting, married a lovely lady named Ruth, and they had four children together. While following each of these children’s lives would be interesting, I want to focus on the second born, Leslie. Born in 1955, Leslie entered the world into a very hostile environment. Constant arguing and outbreaks of family violence were a common occurrence. Leslie learned early on that fists were useful when settling disputes and she grew into what was known in those days as a “Greaser.” Fighting other girls after school and being tough was a way of life for her. A string of dysfunctional relationships with guys led to a very hurting teenage young lady. As her parents separated and eventually divorced, Leslie learned how to become hardened and while she presented an image of steel on the outside, she was extremely insecure.
In 1971 she was working as a busgirl at a busy cafeteria. The employees were primarily young and many had entered into the drug culture. One young man began working there who was noticeably different. He was in his early 20’s which made him weird, but in addition, he was a Jesus Freak. For some strange reason to her, he focused on Leslie and began to share the Gospel with her. While often insulted and abused by his fellow workers, he found a listening ear with this very hard girl. He encouraged her to attend a Bible Study with him and bothered her until she eventually did. In fact, God orchestrated a series of events to assure that her heart was ready. She began to exchange letters with a friend of her older sister who had become a Christian, and Chris often share her personal testimony which planted a seed in Leslie. Later, a traumatic breakup with a dearly loved boyfriend, and pressures of a home falling apart all served to warm and penetrate this ice cold heart. In November of that year, Leslie asked Jesus to be her Savior and Lord and her life would never be the same. The healing process began and she dedicated herself to follow her Lord no matter what came for the rest of her earthly days.
Leslie left her old way of life and began a new journey. She quit dating and felt that the Lord told her to seek Him and that He would bring someone in when she was ready. About a year or so later a young, dirty, long-haired, smart aleck started working alongside her at the restaurant. Leslie felt strangely drawn to this skinny, smelly creature and began to share her story with him. She offered to wash his filthy cloths and they began to talk and hang out some. Eventually, this guy asked Jesus to come into his heart in July of 1973, and the two began to talk marriage. We did marry in May of 1975 and produced three children and they have produced nine children so far. Hindsight reveals that life is interesting with all of its twists and turns.
Most of us are not aware of what has taken place before us to allow us to be where we are today. As Jack and I finished up our coffee, I had a new understanding of how God works. Over six decades ago a young man made a seemingly small decision to not go on patrol. Because of that choice, he lived and was not shot that day. He married, had children and I married one of those children. We have had children and they have had more children. None of this would be reality if Jack had died. We understand that this one decision was not the only one that mattered, for there have been millions of choices by millions of people before and since that make a difference in countless lives. Our lives are intertwined in ways that are beyond comprehension, at least to our finite minds. There is an Infinite Mind and He knows all, sees all, and works all after His counsel and will, and that is mind-renewing.
Often we feel our lives do not matter. We believe a lie that says we do not count for much. The truth is that what we do or don’t do does mean a great deal and to a huge number of people, most of which have not even been born yet. We matter and our lives have meaning and purpose because we are part of a greater plan than we can even begin to grasp. In a moments time I was able to see some of the multitude of ramifications of a simple decision made by a teenager over sixty years ago, and I was breathless. God loved me so much that he spared Jack that day. God sent a young man, who was bullied and mocked daily, to reach Jack’s daughter. She shared with me, we shared with our children, and literally thousands of people have been impacted. I have shared on TV, radio, written books, traveled to several countries, and now have been teaching others for over 30 years. Those that have listened to or read my thoughts have talked to many others and the story continues to unfold. The ripples from Jack’s decision continue and only God knows how far they will spread.
The miracle is I am not the only one and Jack’s decision was one of an infinite number being made by people all over the globe. Each of us make choices every day that have long-term ramifications. Most of results of those choices will not be revealed to us as to their impact, but rest assured, they have one. God knows them and while I can’t prove it Biblically, I bet we spend some of our time with Him in the next life reviewing such things. We will worship Him as we see His complete plan unfold. We will have many moments when, like my conversation with Jack, the light turns on and we see a bigger picture. Understanding of this life’s unanswered questions and mystery will flow into us and we will marvel.