Since my friends and I arrived in Hawaii last Saturday, I’ve eaten new foods, visited new places, and rejoiced in the many wonderful colors in God’s palette out here (well, to be truthful, I haven’t been crazy about the new red hue of my sunburned shoulders). The ubiquitous rental scooters bear stickers with “John 3:16” on their back bumpers, and the natives’ universal polite wave, pinkie and thumb extended, middle fingers folded over, means “Shaka”: welcome, everything’s all right, and go ahead, you may cut the line ahead of me. Forgiveness is the watchword, a lesson I am trying to absorb, and one clearly exhibited at our visit to Pearl Harbor Historic Sites yesterday.
Since my sense of direction in New Jersey consists of knowing the Atlantic Ocean is on the left if I travel south and right if I travel north, I knew driving on a roundish island was going to be too much of a challenge. We decided to rely on public transportation for the ride out past Diamond Head; we climbed aboard the intra-island transit bus system (in order not to confuse the tourists, they cleverly named it “The Bus”), then walked through the exhibits at the National Park.
After watching the short film about that fateful December day and riding the ferry to the remains of the U.S.S. Arizona, I walked slowly around the semicircle of obelisks detailing the fates of the many submarines and sailors lost during World War II. Under the heading “On Eternal Patrol”, hundreds of names filled the face of the granite monuments and served as an honor roll of service. Other tourists, deep in thought and prayer, walked the path alongside me; though many of them were of Japanese descent, there was no tension as Americans and Asians stood together near the site of this great battle, a place both secular and hallowed.
Then one last granite monument put it in perspective. Upon it was an excerpt of a poem Eleanor Roosevelt carried in her wallet during the war. It served as a reminder to her that the sailors’ military sacrifice was selfless and without condition. It read:
Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways,
help me to remember that somewhere, someone died for me today,
and help me remember to ask, “Am I worth dying for?”
Christ’s sacrifice of his life, centuries before that of the entombed soldiers, let us know man is worth dying for, regardless of nationality, or worthiness. He forgave his persecutors just as the tourists who walked alongside each other had. His example of love changed our earthly lives and enabled us to achieve everlasting life with him, on eternal patrol.