The Divine Mystery exists in each of us. We are Stewards of that Mystery.
My older son, Nick, wears a uniform. He is a Lieutenant Junior Grade and a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy. He has been stationed in Kodiak, Alaska for the last eighteen months. He serves on a 278 foot cutter, whose mission is search and rescue and law enforcement. He looks the part: a four-year football player, he is tall and muscular with a square jaw. He is clear about his mission as an officer and an American. When I called to console him on the death of a fellow officer last fall off the coast of California during a failed drug interdiction, his response was simply, “Comes with the job.”
My younger son, Martin, also wears a uniform. A senior Marketing major at Ole Miss, his dream is to be a rock star. His uniform is purchased from the Goodwill. He has tattoos. He is an artist. I once said to a friend that he looks like he is two bad decisions away from being homeless. My friend reminded me that we are all two bad decisions away from being homeless. His musical genre is Alternative Music. When he was in high school, I mentioned to him that it wouldn’t kill him to wash his hair. He said that Kurt Cobain never washed his. “Kurt Cobain is dead!” I said. “Yea, but dirty hair didn’t kill him.”
Nick’s service is more conventional: in return for an engineering degree and a steady paycheck, he has agreed to give five years of his life in service to our country. Martin…well, he apparently got the same message but applies it differently.
The summer after Martin graduated high school, he was dating a young woman already in college. One night, while they were out, she had too much to drink, so much so that she couldn’t drive, but thought she could. Martin insisted on driving her home. She spent the rest of the night with her mother in the hospital suffering the effects of alcohol poisoning. Martin found this out when her mother called the next morning and spoke to him for forty-five minutes. She had called to thank him for saving her life. Martin reported this and concluded by saying, “That’s what friends do for each other.”
Martin would be horrified if he knew I was writing this. He knows (and I know) that he is not, fundamentally, a hero. That night, though, he was a servant. Service takes on many different appearances. Service to God and each other can be public, private, or even anonymous. It is often messy. It calls to us at the oddest times. True service, whatever its form, reminds us of the One who came to serve and not to be served.
Questions of the day:
How willing am I to serve when asked? Whom do I serve?