We are about to celebrate Memorial Day, a time set aside to honor those who have served this nation by giving the “the last full measure of devotion” as Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address. I believe there are many other folks who should also be remembered. I am reminded of the inscription in New York City near Seaman’s Church Institute. It reads:
How that last phrase describes so many people I know. These are the men and women who live the thoughts of Romans 12:3-6, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith…Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly….”
These are the folks whose lives are wrapped up in the matters of life. Their lives are not marked for special recognition, as least as far as this world measures such recognition. There is no loud fanfare surrounding what they do. They simply work each day to provide for their families. They may be found doing housework, in retail work, construction or any number of other jobs. They help their neighbors and visit folks who are sick or lonely.
On Sundays they will be found teaching Bible classes. Their voices mingle with others in worship assemblies. They pray for themselves, their families, their church, their community, their nation and their world. They give what they can to their church and other causes. They will prepare meals for bereaved families.
The ancient Jews had a belief that twelve good people supported the world upon their shoulders. These twelve people were not great government leaders or others the world would recognize easily. They were just ordinary people like the ones described above going about their daily lives with strength and faith. When the time came for one of them to die, God would select from the population another to fill the vacated position. Only after they died did they find out about their special honor.
Phillips Brooks wrote over a century ago, “It is not the most active people to whom we owe the most…not those who, meteor-like, are ever on the rush for some visible charge or work. It is those lives, like the stars, which simply pour down on us the calm light of their bright and faithful being, up to which we look and out of which we gather the deepest calm and courage.”
These are the kind of folks I remember. I honor those who have served our country and died for our freedom. I cherish those who are “great without glory” because they have touched my life.
The funny thing about life is that it goes on. The memorial in New York City honored those in World War I, but then came World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm, etc. Others such as law enforcement personnel have also served and been called upon to sacrifice. We also honor them. Beyond that, as the Jewish legend recalls, the circle of life and those who serve in all capacities also continues on.
Those who have lead and are leading die. Who will then take up the mantle? There will be someone who will step into the gap—there always is. It may not be the person seeking the job, but rather someone who is simply busy in the task of life. It will be the person with the strength of character to live life with faith and love doing each task with determination. It will be the person striving to do whatever the job is to the glory of God and to the service of those around them. These are the people who are truly “Great without Glory”!