Yesterday I was driving home and I was stopped at a traffic light behind a well-maintained Ford F-250. I looked at the truck and noticed a well-placed bumper sticker that read “Please pray for my son Gary Lee; he is serving his country in Afghanistan.” The bumper sticker hit close to home for me. I paused and found myself praying for the man’s son the entire way home.

The sticker took me back to a time when I was raised to believe in things greater than myself. Symbols. There was symbolic meaning in the message: pray for my son. There was a symbol in the fact that the man blessed his son’s service to his country in a time of war, when the majority of us neither pause, nor pray, daily for peace and the welfare of the righteous. Whether or not the father gave his blessing to his son for joining the military, I don’t know. But he was humble enough to realize that there are things in this life a man can control and those which are out of his hands. The welfare of his son, he placed in the Lord’s hands, soliciting the prayers of complete strangers. It was a symbol of utter humility that struck a chord, and likely strikes a similar note in other drivers – especially Christians.

There was symbolism in the idea that men will serve their country despite political misgivings – simply because it is right and honorable. While the father would be sad that his son may indeed come back to him without life, he is confronted with the reality only in terms of the grace of God – according to his plans, and for the cause of doing the right thing for a country that does the right things.

Now, I contrast that with the leading article in Newsweek for April, “The Comeback Country: How America pulled itself back from the brink—and why it’s destined to stay on top.” For a while, we citizens of the United States have been struck with some of the worst economic and financial hardships in recent memory. We suffered, and, if we didn’t personally face hardship, we knew of someone who was suffering. The crush of hard times leads many to repentance and the reinvigoration of faith in a God who is never far from the cries of those with faith in Jesus. Yet, when the end appears in sight, we credit ourselves with the victory, and like the lepers, a slim majority return to thank him for his blessings and provision.

The father may be one of the few. The humility and courage that led him to post such a solicitation for the safety of his son no doubt will factor into a staunch reliance on his Lord’s saving grace. If his son returns safely from war, will he be one who tells his son that he was able to do it because he had the ability to pull himself up by the bootstraps? I don’t think that will be the case.

What if our country is not yet through the worst disaster? What if there is something bubbling beneath the surface? an unseen disaster that could be avoided if we were to only accept our failures and turn back to the Lord? Don’t we serve a Lord that would take us  back? The answer to that final question is: yes. The same love that led our Savior to come to our world, die for the enemy combatants (you and me), and rise again to reconcile us with God, will embrace us when we humble ourselves and “lean not on our own understanding”.

The symbolism of the father with the bumper sticker is comparable to the symbol of the cross. The father loved his son to send him into battle for his country. Our heavenly Father has won the battle with sin and death. Be thankful in the love that is more than a symbol – the love that motivated Christ to the cross for our eternal safety. Enemy combatants we were, dear forgiven children are we now.

3 Comments on “Symbols

  1. Is it symbolism or reality? A father pleas for prayers for his soldier son. That father believes prayers are real. He believes that talking to God makes a difference. He believes that God will hear the prayers of Christians and answer them. He believes this just as he believes time will pass and the sun will come up tomorrow. He believes because he knows that God wants us to pray to him. Prayer is a reality to this father.

    God is here for real. Jesus was sent by God to save us from being kept from God. Because of Jesus, God hears us for real. Because of Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives within us for real.

    Oh, if I could only spend more time thinking of what is real instead of what is in front of my eyes.

    • Thanks for the comment, but I think I may have been unclear or you may have misunderstood what I meant to write. The symbols are what we perceive, not what is actually taking place. The prayers are real and so are all of the actions, but the meaning that we attach to them are the “symbols” that I was intending to highlight.

      • I understand. The bumper sticker was a symbol of the reality of prayer, a very powerful reality. Your message was very clear and well written. Thank you for being so honest with your thoughts.

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