Prayer for a Soldier

Air travel seems inevitably anymore to involve crowded terminals, and chaos, and delay.

And these days the airports seem full of soldiers in uniform, on their way to or from Afghanistan or Iraq or some other war-torn corner of the world.

I’m not sure why one particular young recruit, swept along with me that day in the torrent of corridors and escalators and trams required to change terminals in Atlanta—caught my attention.

Maybe because he seemed so impossibly young—hardly more than seventeen, adolescently tall and thin in his brand-new desert-camouflage fatigues.

I suppose he reminded me of my father, who was barely eighteen when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps right after Pearl Harbor. Dad used to tell us how he had to have all his uniform trousers let down, since he was still growing when he was flying those B-24s across the Atlantic.

I had caught glimpses of this particular young man all along the way, as we journeyed from one terminal to another.

I wondered where he came from, where he was headed, if he had ever been on a plane before. Why he seemed to be all alone.

I wondered if these wars will ever cease. If we will ever stop sending our young people off to kill and be killed.

He and I stepped onto the packed parallel escalators ascending steeply from the tram-stop, suddenly side by side. His narrow left hand rested on the sliding banister just three inches from my right hand.

I was instantly overwhelmed by—filled to the brim with, almost electrically charged with—such powerful love for this boy, and such anger and sorrow for whatever war he was bound for—that it was all I could do not to reach out and cover his hand with mine.

Only the certain knowledge that this would frighten and embarrass him stopped me.

So I let our hands lie there, not touching. But in my heart I laid my hands on those narrow shoulders as well as that thin hand. I poured that love into him, like water, like light.

I prayed for courage, for protection, for freedom from harm and pain, for an awareness of the presence and the mercy of God—all the way up, for the whole silent space of our shared ascent to our separate departures.

2 Responses to “Prayer for a Soldier”

  1. Diane Trees-Clay says:

    Beautiful sharing. It’s moments such as these that I feel the presence of God most clearly. Together we form another holy trinity: God, self, and other.

  2. kominki says:

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