My grandfather’s name was Jack. I didn’t call him grandpa, I called him Jack. Even his own children (he had 6) weren’t allowed to call him “dad” until they were grown and out of the house. And so when they were at the beach or at the store or in the neighborhood and they wanted to get his attention, they didn’t yell for dad, they yelled “Jack,” so that he looked like one of the brothers and not the father.
Jack was a man of few words, and most of those words would not be appropriate for me write here! I didn’t know Jack deeply. What I knew of him was that he was hardened and somewhat distant. He was stubborn and opinionated. He didn’t like to be around people much and he certainly didn’t trust them, he kept his distance. He kept the thermostat in his home set at 60 degrees in the winter and he hated dogs and sauerkraut.
I found out as I got older that there were some events in Jack’s life that factored in to these personal traits.
, when his plane was shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured by enemy soldiers and taken to a small cell where he was kept as a P.O.W. He fought and survived. And fortunately the war ended while he was in prison and he was released to come home. Germany
In 1945, Jack was flying a bombing mission over
Our country was built on courage and strength of men and women like my grandfather. If Jack hadn’t been so courageous and strong, I literally wouldn’t be here because he wouldn’t have come home and wouldn’t have conceived my father and on and on. I can make that connection directly, but the connection is there indirectly for all of us. What if at some key moment in our history as a country, our troops had failed? What would it be like in
? Would you and I even be sitting here? America
I'm disappointed in myself because I rarely think about what Jack did. I’m forgetful. My very existence was threatened by one key point in his history and because of his survival, I’m here. And I hardly ever think about that. We are a forgetful people. That’s why it is important for us to designate days and holidays to help us remember. Today is one of those days.
There are many examples in scripture of God using days, and markers, and holidays and festivals to help people remember important parts of their heritage. Like a string on a finger, God reminds us to remember. God created our brains so that we can tuck away memories. And then in an evocative way, in an instant as we remember, we are able to bring the past into the present and to live deeply in it. Remembering the past should do three things for us:
- It should force us to live in reality. We have a tendency to sugar coat the past or forget it all together. But truly remembering will ground us and center us and remind us of what is really going on.
- It should lead us to gratitude. My blessings as a Christian and as an American are so deep and so rich that my heart should be filled with gratefulness. Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, everyone would stay up all night to behold them. But we have seen stars so often that we don't bother to look at them anymore. We have grown accustomed to our blessings.
- It should move us toward faith. God has allowed us to move through difficulties as a nation much like he has to many of us as individuals. Just as He has been faithful in the past - He will continue to be faithful. That should inspire faith in us.