“There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot-at without result.”
These words of Winston Churchill came alive last week. I was on vacation, and my fiancée and I decided to visit Gettysburg. We had, originally, planned to tour the battlefield on our bicycles and to join my sister (at the Dobbin House Tavern) for a celebration of her 50th birthday. The trip was uneventful and the parking lot at the Lutheran Theological Seminary was empty when we arrived. It was warm and sunny. My mind drifted-back to life as a seminarian. And then, quite unexpectedly, gunfire shattered the silence!
The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning-point in the American Civil War. The three-day battle (fought in 1863) was bloody! The Union and Confederate armies lost a combined total of 46,000 men. “The Peach Orchard” – “The Wheatfield” – “Devil’s Den” – and “Little Round Top” became famous. Civil War buffs still gather in Gettysburg to reenact the Battle and, for three days, the roads through the battlefield are dotted with “soldiers” dressed in blue and gray. “Soldiers” scream. Cannons break the silence. Men charge across fields. Tourists take pictures.
People who reenact famous battles enjoy it. They enjoy dressing in uniforms and facing each other in mock battles. It’s almost as if they believe that an important part of history would disappear if it wasn’t re-lived and re-experienced. Reenactors remind us of important events. Reenactors remind us that wars can occur at home. Reenactors remind us that wars are tragic. Reenactors keep history “alive.”
I suspect that we’ve all reenacted battles. We tend to remember times when we’re hurt – and we, sometimes, re-live hurts (in our minds) for many years. I suspect some of us remember harsh words. I’m sure some of us remember times of betrayal. We say that we “forgive” others – but we, also, admit that it’s hard to “forget.” Being hurt changes us. We can find that forgiveness is elusive, especially when we continue to reenact “battles” that have created the hurt. Some of us remember hurts vividly. Some of us can’t “let go” of things that happened in the past. Sometimes, when people are hurt, they start to think that they can never be “normal” again. This kind of thinking keeps us from forgiving people. Reenacting battles keeps the war alive.
The pain was necessary to know the truth,
but we don’t have to keep the pain alive
to keep the truth alive.
I think that we make a horrible mistake when we continue to reenact “battles” in our lives to keep them from “fading-away.” We can start to believe that, if people who have hurt us don’t see what they’ve done, our suffering has been for nothing. We can begin to long for apologies that are never going to come. We can begin to live as “wounded souls” who crave the attention of others because we confuse pity with love. “Wounded souls” don’t want people to forget that they’re “wounded.” Some people who are wounded learn to define themselves by their “wounds” so completely that they stop believing that they deserve to be loved.
You see, when we’re hurt by others, healing can only begin when we “give-up our right to have a better past.” The healing of our souls begins when we realize that, even though our past wasn’t what we wanted it to be, each new day is a new and exciting beginning. In essence, we have a choice. We can continue to reenact the “battles” in our lives, or we can let go of the past and move forward. We can continue to pick-at the scabs that cover our wounds – or we can turn our eyes to the future and embrace the new life that God sets before us.
Reenactors keep history “alive.” But Reenactors, who force themselves to re-live painful battles, can put themselves through a horrible ordeal. We cannot afford to define ourselves by our “wounds” – no matter how bad they are. When we’re hurt by others, we cannot allow those hurts to destroy us! Sometimes, in order to be healed, we need to “give-up our right to have a better past.” Sometimes, in order to be healed, we need to stop defining ourselves by the actions of those who have hurt us – and start looking to the God who wants to give us something new.