Surviving a War Zone

Several weeks ago I had lunch with my nephew, Marine Captain Mike Lovejoy, who had recently returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq. Throughout his tour he shared with us in elucidating letters his real time experiences.  Mike had lived a whole year in a war zone where his survival was not assured and danger was everywhere.  I wanted to catch up with him before he left on his next assignment.

As we finished our Red Robin burgers we laughed about his next posting, another war zone: Washington DC.

My time with Mike has stayed with me.  I’ve been thinking how life is full of war zones in which battles are being waged under all sorts of conditions.  We find these zones in our homes, hospitals, places of work and, for many of us, between our ears.

War zones for most are not places on a map but circumstances that fall upon us in different ways:

  • a health condition
  • loss of a job
  • a struggling family member 
  • responsibilities that feel too much to bear 

They have a number of things in common, including:

  • life screams nothing is guaranteed, and
  • we feel at least somewhat powerless.

Indeed, Marsha and I have twin unborn granddaughters struggling mightily just to be born.  They and our daughter-in-law have excellent medical care, and yet no one, least of all us, has the power to guarantee all will go as we wish.  Our only recourse is — prayer.

So what else is new?

The School of Hard Knocks has often been my drill sergeant, and these are a few of the lessons I can share from my many deployments:

Acknowledgment: The first law of survival is the simple acknowledgment that one is in a war zone.  Sounds simple but in truth it ain’t easy.  I can testify to spending two decades drowning in booze before I even acknowledged I was in a war zone.  You can’t fight a war whose very existence you deny.

Attunement: War zones are a part of the fabric of life, and like the seasons, they come and they go.  Attunement is required to recognize when one season has passed on to the next and you need to change gears.

Discernment: Some of my war zones have been pure fantasies of my mind, the residue of free-floating anxiety.  So before I declare myself in a war zone I best discern the real from the unreal and avoid depleting my energy on imaginary dragons.

Camaraderie: War zones are not places to be survived alone.  We need our foxhole buddies; without them we never survive.  They have our back and are willing to speak truth to our fiction.  Foxhole buddies bring us fun, humor and inspiration even during our most desperate of times.

Faith: My faith sometimes is nothing more than the belief that “this too shall pass.”  When pinned to the ground this singular thought has been my lifesaver.  I remind myself that one phase of life invariably gives way to another.  The avalanche that has buried me will, in time, succumb to the spring thaw.

“There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

I pray for all of you who find yourselves in a war zone this day.  May you find comfort, strength, humor, courage, and buddies to share your foxhole.

Just a thought…


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