Why We Love it When Soldiers Come Home

soldierA soldier fighting a war in a far off distant land, returning home to reunite with family and friends: few things are more powerful. Children running forward, crying out for their parent’s arms that have been absent for too long. Husband and wife, embracing one another amidst tears and kisses, clutching onto what has been robbed of them, desperately thankful their loved one have returned safely. No matter how catastrophic things are in our world, this moment of reuniting what should never have to be separated, is sacred – everything seems right and good in the light of something so beautiful. Regardless of who you are or what you believe, you want to use high, value-laden language to describe this: beautiful, good, right. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who is indifferent to the matter.

It may seem like an unnecessary question to ask, but why do we love that so much? Why does it seem so inherently beautiful and good and right? The Christian author, CS Lewis, points to certain things in life that we for some reason ascribe beauty to, are echos of a truer, more real beauty. He is noting how we can see beauty in many things (including soldiers returning home), and brilliantly says,

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was a longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire…But they are not the thing itself; they are only a scent of a flower we have not yet found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

– Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Lewis is saying that when we stumble upon something in this life that stuns us with its profundity and beauty, we have uncovered something more Divine than we are aware of. When we are speechless before the Grand Canyon or the Milky Way, or brought to tears at an act of unmerited kindness or selfless sacrifice – we are seeing reflections of Something that our heart is truly longing for. The beauty in the object isn’t what seems profound – it’s the beauty coming through the object. It is as if we have snuck a sip of the deepest thing our soul has thirsted for, yet have been ignorant to it.

When we see a soldier, who has risked so much in the service of others, safely back in the arms of those who love them, it feels like there is a something dry in us being watered, that we didn’t know about. Do you know why? Maybe it is because you are a stranger, in a foreign land, longing for a True Home. It is so obvious isn’t it? We don’t feel at home in this world – our bodies break down, our loved ones die, we experience estrangement with one another – it is a beautiful thing to see a family reunited, but the truth is, that disaster is still looming on the horizon – evil and death are still present in this world. And, even though this is the only world we have lived in, there is something inside of us that tells us this isn’t the way it should be! I shouldn’t have to see my loved ones die. I shouldn’t have to be separated from those I care most about.

You’re right – it shouldn’t be that way – and one day, it won’t.

The Christian narrative explains that for those who have trusted in Christ, one day we will return to the true Home that our heart has been longing for, that no comfort and novelty on Earth has ever been able to satisfy. We will arrive, much like a soldier returning from war, to the land of Peace, where there is no such thing as death or evil, where we really are finally secure. And we will run into the arms of not just those that we love, but into the very arms of Love itself: Jesus Christ. We will be embraced by the very fountainhead of all the beauty, significance and joy that we have seen faint shimmers of in our earthly lives. And all the pain, and struggles and hardships of our lives will make that moment that much sweeter, and the embrace that much more beautiful. That isn’t a fairy tale, or wishful thinking – if you are in Christ, that is your destiny. CS Lewis rightly says,

The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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