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What makes a veteran?

Today’s contributor considers the spiritual power of qualities such as strength, honor, integrity, and brotherly love expressed by veterans from all walks of life.

On Nov. 11 – a holiday in the United States, Britain, Canada, and other countries set aside to honor those who have served in the armed forces – it seems appropriate to ask, What comes to mind when you think of a veteran? A soldier receiving a medal? A white-haired guy wearing a baseball cap with the name of a Navy ship on it? Or some young man or woman in uniform at the airport on the way home from deployment overseas? Or maybe someone in a wheelchair who is disabled, or even someone who is homeless or unemployed?

These do indeed describe some folks who have served in the military, but there’s an entirely different way of thinking about veterans that’s especially meaningful to me.

It has to do with the expression of qualities such as courage, discipline, honor, integrity, thoughtfulness, brotherly love, and teamwork. This list could go on and on, but these qualities really speak for themselves when it comes to why we respect those who have served or are serving in uniform. Taking a moment to pause and be grateful for those who have expressed these qualities says something important – not only about them but about us, as well as about the culture that lifts up and values these qualities.

Why? Because when these qualities, which Christian Science explains are derived from God, are expressed consistently, especially when it seems difficult, they are the death knell to oppression, domination, and disease. Consider this: It was his love and understanding of God’s goodness and love that enabled a young man named David to express the courage and resourcefulness necessary to overcome the fierce warrior named Goliath (see I Samuel 17 in the Bible for the whole story).

Many generations later, it was spiritual insight, discipline, brotherly love, and above all absolute faith in the power of God to heal that prompted a veteran Roman officer and soldier to come to Jesus for help. This man was well-versed in giving orders, but he came humbly to Jesus, seeking the healing power of the Christ, Truth, for his servant, who was so ill he couldn’t leave his bed. The result? The disease was destroyed, and the servant was healed immediately (see Matthew 8:5-13).

As we recognize and acknowledge these spiritual qualities in those who have expressed them often under the most trying circumstances, our own expression of them inevitably grows.

But as important as it is to take the time to honor our veterans who have served in the military, how about taking a moment to honor the veterans from other walks of life who have also had a substantial impact on our lives through their love of God and their fellow men and women? In my case, I’m thinking of a veteran Christian Science practitioner – someone who helps others find healing through prayer – who came to my rescue in one of my darkest hours.

In the early years of my public practice of Christian Science, there was a time when I felt I should quit because I just couldn’t do it. But the very next day, I bumped into this practitioner, who had mentored me on and off for several years. This veteran healer took one look at me and instantly knew I was in dire straits! For the next two hours she shared ideas and experiences that not only brought comfort but also enabled me to see the light again. I’ll never forget how the depth of her expression of spiritual love and insight cut through the sorrow and self-condemnation.

In the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy writes: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (p. 340).

How deeply grateful we can be for the God-given qualities that have characterized the lives of all those who have fought to forward our freedom.

Adapted from an article published in the Nov. 11, 2013, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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