I have thought a lot this week about Captain Daniel Whitten, a 28 year old soldier killed in Afghanistan, who grew up in our church and left to fulfill his calling some ten years ago. I'm certain that I met him once, in the hall, between services, he and his sister, also a soldier, and their mother. Shortly after that, his Iowa family went to another church. If that was something I was responsible for, I grieve that.
But I'm thinking about Daniel Whitten, the son, the brother, the nephew, the grandson. I'm thinking of his parents and I'm thinking about losing my children. Because no matter how old they are, they are still your babies. Always. I'm thinking that during that same week, virtually the same day we came to know about Daniel's passing, we were also mourning the passing of an 89 year old, dearly loved father and grandfather and great-grandfather and also the death of a baby who was just 2 months in the womb. Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world." Usually, whenever death comes it is painful. It is separation. It is the crushing of dreams and the ending of possibilities. But it is not the last word. There is more to come. There is another, better, final chapter setting us for the sequel of what will be a glorious eternity with God in heaven where he will dry every tear from our eye and we will behold him and he will be with us and we with him and there will be no more death, no more pain, no more illness, no more bombs, no more saying goodbye, but an endless stream of "Hello! It's good to see you again(s)."
I'm thinking of Daniel Whitten, a soldier, who gave his life in the fulfillment of a duty to something that was greater than he was as an individual. And I want to say to all the Christians I know, "See! Behold! Are we willing to lay down our lives, too?" Because Daniel lived and carried out his duty with passion and I wish we had more of that passion in the church. He gave his life for a cause and I wonder how many of us are willing to do that anymore? And because death is not the end but a mere doorway from the life that is to the life that is to come, why do we not live more boldly by faith?
I'm thinking of Daniel Whitten, the officier, who knew that his duty to his soldiers was to serve them - serve them by training them constantly to learn how to fight so that they could survive battle and live. And I think about our churches which should be training centers so that people could know Jesus deeper and build their lives on the solid rock and live and I'm wondering if we aren't failing miserably because we lack the stamina to truly make them training centers and because at the end of the day we'd rather just play church and maintain the status quo.
I'm thinking about Daniel Whitten, a young life, a short life, but a life well lived. Thank you, sir, for your service and for your example.