The funny thing is that I have hardly any memories of Skip and I after that day. We went to the same elementary school, middle school, and high school, yet my memories are confined to such a short period of time because I know that we fell into different crowds and didn’t care to remain friends. All I remember of him from high school was that he dated the same girl for years on end and I kept thinking to myself every time I saw them holding hands in the halls that I don’t know anyone else my age who is as faithful in a relationship as him.
One of the things I did know about him regardless of whether or not we lost touch was that he loved God very well. I also remember that he loved this country and the idea of fighting for it, and after we graduated in the same class from Sprayberry High School in 2012, I wasn’t surprised to find out that he wanted to be a Marine.
Fast forward a few years and I’m sitting alone in my house with tears streaming down my face and wondering why Skip had to die. And as I’m wondering this, I’m also fervently praying for his mother and family because I couldn’t bear the thought of what it must be like for them to hear the news that their Skip is gone. How do you get through the loss of your son? I remember thinking to myself. No mother should have to outlive her child, I also said with anger to God.
But I wasn’t angry at God that day. I was angry at the world. I was angry at the shooter. I was angry at terrorism. And also scared. Because I could no longer deny that evil isn’t lurking around the corner. Skip knew that more than I did. And knowing such evil and doing whatever possible to stop it from harming others is an act of heroic bravery. Unlike me, Skip had that heroic bravery about him.
Like me, most people these days like to pretend that such evil things don’t exist or aren’t happening all around them.
On the day Skip died, he wasn’t given the option of pretending. Skip was a brave and honorable man. He was one of the rare few in this world willing to lay down his life.
I wasn’t planning on going to his funeral today. Even though I was there when the coffin containing Skip’s body arrived at the funeral home last Thursday afternoon and I was also there when that same coffin was leaving the funeral home to be transported to the actual funeral this morning, I didn’t want to go to the funeral. The very scared part of me just wanted to be a witness, a bystander. I didn’t want to be a part of the mourning because then that would require doing something as terrifying as going to a funeral, which I had never done and never wanted to do.
But as I watched the hearse drive by me, I realized that I was already wearing an all-black dress. I had already completely filled my gas tank. I had already bought food to tide me over for a few hours. I was already unscheduled to do anything this afternoon. And lo and behold, I had just enough time to make it to the funeral. So I went. Alone. Unexpectedly. Slightly frightened of what I’d find.
Do you want to know what I found? That I was mourning. I was mourning for Skip, but also for his mother and also for myself. I can’t possibly compare my life to Skip’s life, let alone any experience of mine to Skip’s death. There’s no justice in that. But when I say that I was mourning for myself, I am indicating that something was lost in my life this past week: innocence. I not only became acquainted with the reality of evil more than ever before, but I also became more angry at evil more than ever before. I couldn’t claim naiveness anymore. And I HATED that man for what he had done to a godly man like Skip.
This past semester, I took a class on terrorism and I sat through the whole semester in that class without batting an eye. I even described the terrorists I was learning about as “interesting” and “intriguing.” I contemplated their motives, somehow had natural empathy for them, and would come home to Grant and talk about how fascinating the whole subject was.
But there was not a single fascinating thing about what transpired in Chattanooga less than two weeks ago. Not a single thing. What transpired in Chattanooga was sickening. Disgusting. Horrifying. And heartbreaking.
And I hated that man. Which, if you know me, you would say is absolutely out of my character. Jessie loves everybody!
Except it’s not out of my character. Hate is not out of any of our characters.
You know what’s out of our characters? To love despite complete loss and heartache. To keep going despite losing all that is most precious to you on this earth. To allow yourself to be put in harm’s way and even killed for the sake of so many Americans who forsake both patriotism and respect for servicemen.
That kind of behavior, that kind of love and strength, is not of this world. It is of God.
Skip had that kind of love and strength in him. It WAS of his character — because his character was molded and transformed through his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’m sure Skip hated evil. We can all hate evil (if we choose to finally see it). But you know what else Skip did that I think is pretty uncommon? He loved what is good.
Many of us are in the in-between. We are indifferent to both extremes. We are touched momentarily by a sweet, selfless act and temporarily in shock from a terrorist attack, but we carry on with our ordinary, everyday lives. Skip wasn’t willing to carry on with his ordinary, everyday life. That’s why he joined the Marines. And I know Skip’s mother won’t carry on with her ordinary, everyday life. She will be forever changed by what happened to her son.
We aren’t designed to experience joy and pain only to carry on with our ordinary, everyday lives. That’s the pattern so many of us choose, but it’s not the calling God has for our lives. He wants us to be impacted and touched. Furious for the sake of justice. Jealous for righteousness. And as brokenhearted as he is for the hurting and lost in this world.
We all need wake-up calls. We are all on our way to the grave. Although eternal life will be waiting for many of us on the other side, we still have a life left to live here on this earth. And some of us, like Skip, will be leaving this earth way too soon.
What I loved about Skip’s funeral was that it wasn’t just a celebration of Skip’s life, but it was also a celebration of God’s gift of eternal life. We know that Skip is in the presence of God in Heaven, able to freely rejoice and escape the numbness that this world has to offer us at the cost of our innocence.
I love that at the end of the funeral, the pastor got up on stage and was able to give an invitation to all of those attending. It was an invitation to that same eternal life Skip now calls his home. And I pray that people decided to begin a relationship with God and accept the offer of eternal life in God’s Kingdom as a result of mourning with Skip’s family and friends today. Even the people who were mostly there to get good videos and pictures on their iPhones, the people who disrespectfully made Skip’s funeral look like a spectacle. If they saw the love and life of God through the lens of their camera, then I suppose it would all be worth it.
I guess I’m sharing all of this because I’m mourning in my own way, along with many others. I’m wrestling with how much hate versus love is in my heart as a result of such tragedy and evil happening around me. I’m praying for Skip’s family while also secretly and desperately pleading with God to never let me experience the loss of a child. I’m striving to let myself be changed by this instead of snap back to the naive, ignorant life I often choose to live. And I’m wondering how God is getting the glory through Skip’s life and death (although I have no doubt that he is).
My last thoughts on Skip Wells for today are that I knew him as a boy, when we were young and innocent and mostly unafraid. Now Skip is gone and so is that innocent, courageous youth we both once knew.
He became a man without me noticing and he was going to go off and do great things probably without me noticing, too. But now nothing about Skip can go unnoticed. And I’m left with the choice of whether I’m going to keep noticing — not just Skip, but all other important, even senseless things happening around me, both good and evil — or if I’m going to shut my eyes and choose ignorance.
You have that same choice to make. If you knew Skip, then you also have now known death. And evil. And pain. And loss. You might not feel it all right now, but you can’t say you don’t know that it’s there. So what are you going to do with it?
Are you going to let the evil and pain drive you into the arms of God and purposeful living, as it did for Skip? Or are you going to let it create a wall of bitterness, indifference, or apathy in your heart?
Skip doesn’t have to make that choice any longer. He is with his Creator in a place more beautiful and perfect than we could ever imagine. But you and I are still here. We do have that choice to make. And if we choose right, we may get to scratch the surface of that beauty and perfection, at least enough to get us through each heartbreaking day and tragic night until we get to be face-to-face with our great God, too. And if we choose wrong, we’ll only miss out. We might spare ourselves from some pain right now, but not in the long run.
Skip might have been afraid of death, but he was still willing to risk his life. What are you and I afraid of? And looking at Skip’s bravery and faithfulness, how can we maybe borrow some of that bravery and faithfulness to make sure we also live a life and die a death that is as far from wasted and purposeless as the east is from the west? I’ll give you a hint: even good and honorable Skip knew he needed a Savior. What makes any of us think we don’t desperately need one, too?
Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, we will miss you and we honor you. Thank you for being an example to others around you. I will see you in Heaven someday so please save a perfect peach for me.
So this might be a weird thing to write about, but I feel like I’ve reached the point where I don’t really care who reads what I write. As long as one person gets something good out of it, then I’m okay with approaching uncomfortable topics.
And the uncomfortable topic for the day is: a woman’s body.
Men, you can just stop reading now if you want. I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to dive into the realms of feminine issues in the middle of a Tuesday.
Especially considering I’m going to be discussing the dreaded “time of the month.” AKA PERIODS.
There. I said it.
I’ve been reading this book by Stasi Eldredge (author of Captivating) called Becoming Myself and one chapter in particular really intrigued me because it discussed an element of a woman’s life that I don’t tend to concentrate on so much: the body.
She brings up a very good point. “I am my body just as much as I am my spirit, my soul, my emotions, my dreams, my desires, and my sense of humor” (Becoming Myself p.51)
The body matters, too.
When I really stop to think about it, a majority of conversations or thoughts involving my body are negative and filled with hate.
I HATE getting my period. I HATE cramps. I HATE bloating. I HATE being so incredibly emotional.
And even when I’m not on my period, I find things to complain about. I’m not happy when I’m bloated and I’m not happy when I’m thin. I feel too curvy one day and not curvy enough the next. The circles under my eyes are too dark, my skin is too dry, the hair on my legs grows back too quickly, and LORD ALMIGHTY, how do I control this frizzy hair?
I know I am not the only one who does this because I have friends. And my girlfriends and I are notorious for griping about our bodies together. We actually feel like we’ve bonded after ranting back and forth for five straight minutes about how gross we feel.
And to be honest, I love those conversations. In those moments, I feel free to complain and whine and get all weepy because I know that these other women know EXACTLY what I’m feeling. We even celebrate when we’re on our cycle at the same time because we know we can suffer together. It’s like we’re blood sisters (pun very much intended).
But on the flip side, we don’t have too many conversations praising our bodies. Sure, every now and then we’ll send some selfies to each other (#stunna) on days when we feel particularly pretty (or HOT, if I’m going to be honest). We occasionally gush about how great each other’s hair and outfits and makeup looks. But not so often our own. Most of our discussions pertaining to our bodies and appearance aren’t positive.
I wish this wasn’t so.
I’ve been growing into the idea of loving and cherishing my body for the past several years, but I’m far from fully appreciating it. I haven’t had children yet so I certainly can’t pull the whole “it gives life” card. I’m not married and I’m not having sex so I can’t even pull the whole “it unites me to another person in God’s design” card.
For now, my body seems to just be… my body. It’s just there. I have one. That’s all.
But ladies, there IS so much more to it than that.
This is quite revolutionary for me. I feel like I’m at a point in my life where it’s vital that I begin to change some of my perceptions because one day my body WILL be bringing life into this world and be wonderfully enjoyed by a man I commit the rest of my life to.
If I don’t accept or understand my body now, I might not be able to appreciate it for all that it is when it does do those miraculous things.
The truth is that our bodies are already miraculous.
And when we hate our bodies, it’s like we’re saying, “God, Your design stinks.”
Now I know that we probably won’t change our perception about our bodies overnight. In a few weeks I know I’m going to be griping about cramps all over again. In fact, I have a dreadful Pap smear at the end of this week (TMI maybe) and I’ve been cursing my body for the past week for requiring so much care. I don’t want some doctor investigating my uterus.
Yet I know deep down my body matters. It needs to be taken care of. It needs to be treated nicely.
And I haven’t been treating my body very nicely, at least not with my words or attitude.
I really think that it’s important for us women to start valuing our bodies. If we dedicate so much time tending to our emotional and spiritual needs through encouragement and prayer, then why not our physical needs, too?
Our body needs love.
Our body needs encouragement and prayer and affection and attention. No matter what size we are or what time of the month it is, our bodies should be appreciated. They are gifts.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Perhaps part of honoring God with our bodies is treating our body nicely. Instead of tearing it down, we acknowledge the beauty of God’s creation. We let our bodies do their thing (menstrual cycles, gaining weight, and all) as a way of surrendering to God’s plan for our lives.
I’m still going to cling to chocolate and Ibuprofen when distress hits, but I’m going to try to not despise what my body is doing. I’ll still cringe as I have a hard time buttoning my jeans, but I’m going to try to not bash my figure. As Stasi puts it, “to be a woman is a glorious thing” (p.52).
Maybe we can just start thanking our bodies for what they go through, even if we aren’t truly grateful. Maybe over time, we really will be able to see ourselves differently in the mirror. I think self-talk really does help. Prayer, too. What if we just started acknowledging things, GOOD things, about our bodies one day at a time?
I wonder if our confidence would grow. Maybe we’d curb some of that insecurity. Maybe we’d be able to survive that time of the month without biting everyone’s head off.
I certainly don’t know what could come of this considering I’m just now starting to wade into the waters of appreciation, but I feel like it’s got to be good for us to some extent, right?
I dare you (if you are a woman) to start taking some of this seriously. Take your bodies seriously.
Your body is beautiful! That’s sometimes difficult to say out loud or even fathom, but it’s true.
That’s all I have to say on this topic. I’m sorry if this was uncomfortable to read. You could’ve stopped twenty paragraphs ago.
And men, if you’ve made it this far, I’m thoroughly impressed. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with me after reading this. I may be one of the few women you know who would dare say such things so openly, but know that every female you encounter holds many of the same feelings, thoughts, and concerns about her body. It’s just the way we are, the way we think. I think it’s good for men to dive deeper into what being a woman is like just so he can properly love and care for her. Likewise, I believe a woman has a duty to know more about herself and also about the men in her life.
It’s important to unveil some of these secrecies and mysteries.
And now that I have peeled back this one layer, you may carry on with your Tuesday.