It's Memorial Day in America, a day we set aside to honor the sacrifices made by those who fought to preserve our way of life. And it's exactly the kind of day that we need right now, to remind us of what love is.
We are caught in a culture war, with debates raging back and forth about what is good and what is necessary and how we're even supposed to live. We spent the past couple of months learning a lesson in what it takes to protect the vulnerable among us, but the truth is that it didn't take very long for us to forget the vulnerable and think we were just protecting ourselves. And then, when we thought we were just protecting ourselves, it didn't take much to convince us that we didn't need protecting at all. And now...well, now, look at us.
We're living in a world that keeps trying to tell us what love looks like, keeps trying to tell us what we need to do for each other. We're angrily feuding over the idea of wearing a mask in public because 'my mask doesn't protect me; it protects you' and at the same time, we recognize that 'your mask doesn't protect you; it protects me.' And the conversation that we're really having, although no one wants to come out and say it, is that I shouldn't have to wear a mask because it doesn't protect me, but you absolutely should, in order to protect me.
(Please know that from the beginning, I have been an advocate for those for whom masking is not neutral, for those for whom a mask presents a truly tremendous burden - for those with chronic medical conditions that make breathing already difficult, for those with anxiety issues or claustrophobia, for those with trauma in their past, for the neuroatypical among us who can't tolerate the feeling. I hear you. This post isn't really about masking vs. not masking.)
If you didn't read the parenthesis, this post is not really about masking or not masking. I'm not taking a side here; all I'm doing is reflecting the arguments that we're having, and not just about masking. Eating out vs. not eating out. Going bowling vs. not going bowling. Whether we should be allowed to walk on public trails with one another or not. It's all the same argument, all the same fight.
We are being told what we can do to help one another, to love one another, and our response is that we shouldn't be forced to love one another, but others should be forced to love us.
And then, we have a day like today. Memorial Day.
A day in which we remember those who didn't even know us, but loved us enough to die for us. Who never had to ask the question that we're asking, but answered them - definitively. Who ran right into the fire knowing they might never come out of it, just to protect us from the fire. They gave their lives loving us in ways that we too often don't even recognize as love. War is so far removed from most of our experience that we just can't fathom it.
Which is, ironically, the gift they have given us - keeping war so far away from our messed up, crazy lives that we don't even understand the depth of their sacrifice.
This pandemic has raised so many questions for us about what it means to love one another, and to love well. But today, this day, settles them all.
No one has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for others. - John 15:13