I spent 10 years serving my country on active duty in the Army.
I deployed to Iraq and Bosnia and served in Germany and Korea as well as several state-side bases. Before that, I spent four years as a cadet training for my military role at West Point and 12 more working to get into the Military Academy. I dreamed of serving my country from the time I was a freckle-faced eight-year-old with her carrot-colored hair cut carefully in a bowl shape.
Now, I am married to an Active Duty Soldier.
I can’t hear the soulful notes of the National Anthem and keep my eyes dry.
Being an American has always meant serving my country. I feel blessed to have been born in this country where we are free. Free to speak our minds. Free to practice our religion. Free to pursue our own happiness. Free to be who God created each of us to be.
But our freedom comes with an often unspoken obligation.
John F. Kennedy gave voice to that ideal in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961:
My fellow Americans,
ask not what your country can do for you,
ask what you can do for your country.
It was easy to assume I was living up to the expectations of serving my country when I laced up combat boots and donned my camouflage uniform. I was making a big investment in my country. But now, as a civilian, I often struggle with making a meaningful contribution to my community, let alone my country.
Blog posts beg to be written and e-mails demand answers. Constant vibrations from my phone lure me away from real life. Minutes pass all too quickly when I’m packing lunches, cleaning toilets, shuttling my littles, forcing vegetables at dinner, and fighting for a decent bed time. That doesn’t even take into account the planning, purchasing, and preparing required for the women who gather for my weekly craft workshops. Daily demands pile up and I’m left with few resources to serve anybody but myself.
Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus challenged us in much the same way as President Kennedy. To love one another, even our enemies. Serve one another. Go the extra mile. Use our gifts for His glory.
When I wonder if my ministry work measures up to much, I recall what Jesus said to His disciples on the Mount of Olives:
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Did you catch that? He said, whatever you do for one. Not all. Not the entire nation. Not everybody. What we do for one matters to Him.
Just like God’s eternal kingdom is made up of individuals, our country is a conglomeration of “ones” too. I’ve learned that whatever I do to love and serve the one in my own back yard, I do not only for my King, but also for my country. We harness great power when each of us uses our freedom to make a small contribution to our neighbors.
True freedom for all people comes through service to one another.
So, carry the groceries. Pray the prayer. Hold the door with a smile. Watch the kids so weary parents can reconnect on a date night. Mail that card. Send that text. Pay for the car behind you in the drive through. Ask how a friend is doing and really listen to their answer.
Those investments add up. And the benefits reach beyond our borders.
They have heavenly value.
Pray for God to show you who you can serve today and the courage to follow through with His challenge. Then come back and share your contribution for King and country in the comments below.