I was doing a funeral for an Army Veteran with full military
honors. As you may know, this includes a flag draped over the coffin which is folded and given to the surviving spouse or daughter. In 30 years of ministry, I’ve done several of these, but this was the first and only time I’ve seen two soldiers mess it up.
As one was holding the end of the flag and the other was creating the triangular fold starting from the opposite end, it became apparent that they didn’t have enough cloth left over to tuck the end into the folds and thus hold the triangle in place. The two solders were facing one another almost nose-to-nose and there was no way to finish.
The lead officer sort-of pointed with his nose twice until the subordinate caught-on and started to back-up, unfolding the flag as he went. When he reached the end, he re-started and his captain held about 3 inches of cloth in his hand to make sure there was enough this time.
It was awkward, but eventually, they finished and the flag was perfectly triangular. It was then tucked-into a clear plastic cover and handed to my patient’s daughter who received it with gratitude.
As I was watching, I found myself thinking about how many times I've let the fear of embarrassment hold me back. I wondered how many times I avoided doing or accomplishing something because of who might be watching or how "perfect" it would have to be...
I also wondered whether or not I would have broken protocol to say something or ask a question or just laugh to "break the ice." Finally, I thought about how I would have likely tried to hide the mistake by folding the dangling cloth under the flag after discovering it wouldn't "tuck in." I might have just tried to slip it into the bag and hand it to the family "unnoticed."
But these soldiers didn't do any of these things....
They just backed-up, unfolded the flag, and did it over again--the right way." It was as if they didn't care who was watching or how many times they might have to refold the flag, they were going to do it right and present it right--or die trying.
In Matthew 6:1, Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven." In other words, we do what we do for God--an audience of one. If, (or more likely, when), we mess-up, we back up in His grace and with the protection of his forgiveness, and do it again. We do it again and again till we get it right--no matter who else is looking.
I want that flag-folding mishap to become the basis of my life--working for God, forgetting who else may be watching and thus, having an opinion on the matter. I want to keep going till I get it right--all the while feeling the peace of God's love....
How 'bout you? Want to join me?
To that end,