Gettysburg Surprise

Sean Roberds | Oct 06, 2016

Last week during my vacation I took a day trip to Gettysburg.  There is nothing more restful and recharging for my soul than the solitude of driving a few hours and taking my time to walk through a memory of our past. I’m not really a history buff; I can’t call out historical facts or produce any meaningful artifacts, but I like it.  I like entering into a story other than my own.  History takes us to a different time, a different place, a different culture like any good book yet, history tells us stories of real life in actual places.    

Gettysburg surprised me. I‘ve been to battlefields before and I‘ve read enough Civil War history to know how bloody the whole thing was. I was hoping for the thrill of being immersed in a place of heroism, bravery, and tactical military brilliance.   But instead I was overcome with sorrow and sadness. I felt an aching in my heart and turmoil in my soul for the devastation and carnage that still haunts the land.  I began to think about what drives humanity to such bloodshed and massacre. I wondered about the powers and principalities that could bring good people to the point of such terror.  I reflected on the devastating demons of anger, hatred, and greed.  Anger for our fellow countrymen fired the shots on the battlefield, hatred of a whole race of people put them there, and greed of economic prosperity fueled the entire war.

The battlefield is set up to look just as it did 150 years ago. It’s massive, open, and eerie just like the battle that ensued.  I stood by the stone wall on the Union side and looked out across the battlefield thinking about the thousands of Confederates who, in a last effort to break the Union lines, charged across an open field for what appears to me an insignificant wall. 12,500 men were involved in “Pickett’s Charge.” More than half were killed, wounded or captured.  One of my ancestors, on my Mother’s side, was part of “Pickett’s Charge.” He made it to the wall and somehow survived the battle. As I stood looking over the wall into history I thought about him. What did he feel as he raced toward the line? Hatred, anger, fear? Then I thought about my own greed, hatred and anger. How close am I to rushing in rage toward my brother? How close are we to tearing each other apart? In light of the upcoming election, the racial tensions that are a few degrees from boiling, and how our rational fear of terrorism has turned to irrational fear of refugees, I’m not so sure Gettysburg is our distant past.  It might be closer than we think.   

After a long day of riding and reflecting, I sat in my car to pause and be still.  Why had I come to Gettysburg in the first place? I was on vacation, I was supposed to be resting, recharging and renewing my faith. Maybe I had picked a poor place to do such a thing.  In that moment I realized what I truly needed.  After being confronted with my own powers of hatred, anger, and greed, sitting in the middle of such a devastating place of malice, terror, and destruction, I was reminded of my need for a savior. What we need is a savior.  A savior whose love mutes the battle cry of our hearts and whose death and resurrection conquered the powers of greed, racism, and hate.  We need a savior who pulls us out of the pain of our history and into the better story of hope.

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