This reflection was first published in the November 2013 issue of the Anglican Journal.
When we talk about love, what do we mean? Because love is not an emotion. It’s an action -not a noun, but a verb. Real love-true love-involves sacrifice. Sacrifice. That’s the essence of maturity, isn’t it? When we are immature, we fight only the fights we think we can win. When we are grown, we fight-even hopelessly-because it’s the right thing to do.
Our soldiers don’t go to plant our flag permanently in foreign lands; they never have. In our latest conflict in Afghanistan, we didn’t seek to turn the Afghan people into little Canadians. It wasn’t to impose a Canadian value system upon them. It was to restore their God-given right to determine those matters for themselves. Did we win? Like all the big conflicts of the past, we always fight to win.
Did we win? I don’t know. It’s too early to tell. I do know that we lost some really good people. I do know that there are now empty chairs at tables, children without fathers: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations missed. Whole lives unlived. Families devastated. Was it worth it? I don’t know.
I do know that there are some people-hopeless before-who now know that a small group of foreigners, from faraway, loved them enough not just to pray for them or speak words of encouragement to them, but who were actually willing to die for them. What price do you put on that? That can’t be bought with any amount of money, talk or goodwill. That one is bought with blood. That is radical sacrifice.
Soldiers complete missions. They also do not determine if a war was “worth it.” They never have. What determines victory is not what they did, but what we do afterwards. Victory -“winning”- is not simply the cessation of conflict; it’s the presence of a just peace and that is in our hands as a gift from them. That is the freedom that we talk about: the freedom to determine, in peace, what to do to make this world better, safer and more just.
To my mind, this is what Remembrance Day is about: not just war, but the memory of the responsibility the rest of us bear to make soldiers’ sacrifice really mean something; to spend wisely what they bought for us, because if we are not good stewards of that legacy, wars might yet be lost. THE REV. LEE LAMBERT is rector of St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Russell, Ont.