|Posted on June 28, 2018 at 2:05 PM|
For years the 4th of July celebration had been a difficult time for me emotionally. I found myself trying to avoid any public celebrations in favor of isolating at home or “getting away” on special outings. The day was spent trying to suppress a seething anger and bitterness rather than enjoying our Independence Day and I didn’t know why. After more than 40 years I began to discover the reasons for such “un-patriotic” feelings and behavior…unrecognized and, therefore, unconfessed hatred.
For me the “root of bitterness” sprang up inside when I returned from the Vietnam war. Of course, I was relieved to be out of combat and home in one piece. It was a time all soldiers dreamed about and counted down the days till they boarded that “Freedom Bird” that would take them back to “the World” as we called the U.S. Each of us had spent countless hours planning what we would do if we made it home alive and longed for that moment when we finally returned. Admittedly, our youthful expectations may have run a little high, but the “welcome home” we received was shocking for most. Ranging from total indifference to open hostility we experienced anything but a warm welcome from the country we served. Our service was not only unappreciated, but our very survival made us suspect and the object of scorn.
While friends and family may have known better, the media portrayed the stereotypical image of a Vietnam vet as being a crazed killer of innocent women and children who could not be trusted. I’m not aware of any other group of veterans in our history being commonly referred to as “baby killers”. The public image of the Vietnam Vet was certainly not something to be proud of, but something that needed to be denied. Like so many others I quickly covered up my status and refused to engage in any conversation about my experiences in Vietnam. Shame quickly replaced whatever sense of accomplishment and honor I had leaving me no choice but to “put it all behind me and go on with my life”.
The resentment and bitterness against an ungrateful nation led by corrupt politicians as well as a self-centered generation of ignorant but noisy protestors and journalists was suppressed and held deep within the heart. Like all such disappointments and hurts, those that are stuffed down begin to grow and morph into murderous hatred and rage. On occasion such feelings may surface when triggered by certain events, but it is possible to live with such emotional “baggage” for years. The quality of such a life, however, is far less than desirable and often degenerates into bouts of rage leading to relational problems. Clearly, there is a desperate need for genuine healing that comes only through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is God’s answer for the devastating effects of hatred and rage. True forgiveness is not simply accomplished by religious ritual or effort but through the miraculous work of the indwelling Spirit of God convincing us of the truth about who he has made us to be. It is the light of the truth that sets us free from the lies of darkness and only God, who is Light, can lead us into that light. This year I’m going to celebrate the 4th by seeking that light.