“Daddy, did you fight in a war?”
I scrambled to catch up with my father in the grocery store parking lot, but my 7-year old legs were very short. I didn’t mind doing a bit of a run in my cool new velcro-strap tennis shoes. He must have slowed down for me.
“Was it exciting?”
“No son. War is not exciting. It’s terrible.”
I remember this clearly. He said it forcefully, almost as if he was annoyed. There must have been at least a few moments of silence while I processed the information he’d just injected into my developing mind. We walked through the sliding glass doors. I don’t remember what we talked about next–I probably asked if we could buy some candy.
I grew up in a town that exists largely to serve a military base. Many of my other friends also had dads who fought in Operation Desert Storm. Our fathers left, and then returned several months later. I remember playing “army men” in a field with one of my friends–we wandered the farm field in the back of his house with our plastic helmets and plastic guns, shooting imaginary enemies. F-16 fighter jets used to fly drills over my house and then far out over the wheat fields at night. I remember finding the doppler-shifted roars vaguely comforting as I fell asleep. To my 7-year old mind, I just wanted to be like my dad. He put on camouflage in the morning, so I did too. Jets soared overhead, so I flew my toy jets over my Lego figures. It was innocent. But that conversation with my dad in the grocery store parking lot was the first time I realized that people die in war. What had seemed fun was beginning to seem obscene–and rightly so.
War is apalling. I believe that some wars are just, and some are unjust, but war is apalling. Hopefully, the UN action in Libya will bring justice, prevent huge loss of life, and allow the country to improve, but that doesn’t change the fact that people–people who may have been trying only to make money, or to keep themselves safe, people who may have been caught up in something they didn’t understand–have died.
I grew up far, far away from any of the horrors of war. The armored vehicles I saw were not rolling through smoking battlefields, but through miles of wheat fields swaying in the breeze, through rolling prairies with grazing cattle.
God is tired of war. He’s tired of people dying, of children starving, of women losing husbands. Like in the time of Noah, evil makes God sorrowful. And eventually, like in the time of Noah, God will destroy the destroying. He’ll save those who belong to Him, and the world will be transformed. Vehicles once used for violence will be useless. Someday, the Lord will harvest His people like the farmer harvests the wheat in the fields, and the only use for our instruments of war will be for peace–perhaps tanks will carry hay bales and helicopters will dust crops.
“It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.”
-Isaiah 2:2-4 (ESV)