Running into Gaps

“If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry on?”

Those words are spoken near the end of the movie Glory, just before an all-black regiment from Massachusetts marches into battle against a well-manned, well-supplied Confederate fort. A soldier quickly volunteers to take his fallen comrade’s place as a defenseless flag bearer.

To unhesitatingly take another’s position knowing death likely awaits requires commitment and conviction. The easy choice is to do nothing, avoid it, run away – to leave a gap.

We evade responsibilities like this because they’re difficult, posing risk or even danger. But we don’t shy away only in life-threatening scenarios. We carry this aversion toward self-sacrifice into the simplest, most mundane duties of life.

Gap-filling requires selflessness – setting aside personal preferences, giving up time and energy. And, that’s usually my biggest obstacle – willingly laying down my own immediate desires to do what needs to be done to help my family, a friend, or a neighbor.

I’m not talking about massive feats of service that require hours or days of my time, either. I can walk past a full trash can, dishes in the sink, a shirt on the end of the bed, a toy that’s in the way, or shoes I’ve left out and either not see them or completely ignore them. I don’t want to take the necessary time (seconds of my life) and effort (minimal) to fill that gap.

I leave gaps in others’ lives as well when I fail to engage – spending time online instead of with my kids, staying at home instead of going on a date with my wife, avoiding a conversation with a friend, not helping a neighbor.

Sure, it’s tedious and seemingly never-ending. But how might those simple acts bless my wife? My kids? How might rolling my neighbor’s trash can back to his house bless him?

Serving like this is never glamorous, and it’s often thankless. But is that why I serve? For the recognition?

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