The Old Guard

Arlington National Cemetery, May 2017

“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

Those are the words chiseled into the marble sarcophagus that holds the body of an unidentified military veteran from WWI. In addition, two other unidentified soldiers from WWII and the Korean War are memorialized at the same site in separate crypts. A fourth, previously unknown soldier from the Vietnam War (later identified through DNA testing at Michael Blassie) rested there until 1998 when his remains were moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Since 1937, the Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded 24/7-365 by a select group of soldiers known as Tomb Guard sentinels, an elite group of soldiers from the 3rd US Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard.” The soldiers rotate throughout the day, ceremoniously and meticulously marking their steps, following a prescribed protocol of duty. It’s fascinating, sobering and sacred, to sit as a ringside witness to such tribute and honor. For these soldiers, their service isn’t played out on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq.  Instead they surrender their duty, give their time and their best, on the battlefield known as Arlington National Cemetery, all for one sacred, privileged purpose.

To guard and protect the unknown – an American soldier known but to God.

And tonight, in the quieting moments after a week that has forced my faith to new heights and my knees to deeper prayer, I am thinking about those unknown soldiers, their stories and the secrets they keep encased within those crypts. Most tenderly, I’m thinking about the soldiers who, for the past eighty years, have given up their days and their nights for the sole purpose of guarding and protecting this mystery.

Sometime in the distant past, on a landscape not my own, three soldiers died on different battlefields while defending the rights of liberty. And while their identities currently remain a mystery, their earthly remains are heavily defended by The Old Guard.

As it is with the Tomb of the Unknowns, so it is with my life. So it is with yours.

a sentinel from The Old Guard – Arlington National Cemetery, April 2017

There are many mysteries, countless unknowns attached to our stories. The previously written chapters of our lives are safely scripted and bound within the annals that bear our names. But there are other pages, other secrets, chapters to come, and chapters writing themselves in this very moment, that are unidentified to us. And this can be scary at times because we have very little control over the unknowns; instead, we can only bear witness to them as they arrive and pray for God’s grace to hold them as our own. And when we’re shaken by newly discovered realities – when the unknown is finally identified and brings us fear rather than peace – as Christians, we have a deeper reality that we can cling to, a known truth that will cover our hearts and our minds like a warm blanket on a bitter winter’s night…

The Old Guard is standing near.

Marking his paces. Guarding his own. Rain or shine. 24/7-365. Back and forth before the crypts that carry the fullness of our lives – the mysteries, things known to us, and things known but to him. For this Soldier, his service is no longer played out on the battlefield known as Calvary; instead, he surrenders his duty, his time and his best, on the battlefield known as our lives, all for one sacred, privileged purpose.

To guard and protect the unknown – a soldier’s story, our stories, known but to Him.

See him there, friends. Oh how carefully Jesus Christ is guarding your tomb. Your surrender is precious to him, and in his great love for you, he has promised you his protection. What you cannot see, what you cannot know, is already seen and known to him. Your unfolding mysteries are not a mystery to him. He knows your story. He knows what’s at stake. He’s laid down his life for yours, and you can be sure that he’s not going to let the enemy rob your surrender of one single glory.

The gates of hell may rattle and shake its cage against you today, threatening your capture. But take heart. The Old Guard is standing near, and the gates of hell are no match for the protective, loving reach of this Sentinel. He has given his life and his pledge to bring you safely home. He will keep his word. It is his highest honor to do so 

So rest in honored glory today, Christian soldier. You and your unknowns are known to God. He can be trusted with the rest of your story. As always…

Peace for the journey,

PS: Psalm 91 has been a balm to my soul in this season. You may read it by clicking here.

11 Responses to The Old Guard

  1. Simply beautiful! We indeed have our Savior watching and guarding…thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts…in prayer we remain at His feet…love you. Blessings.

  2. Always such a comfort when we think about the unchanging nature of our Lord! Always with us. Always for us. Always guarding us.

    Love you my faithful friend!!

    • And he is our faithful friend… always. Sometimes we need to remember him as protector as well. Our God is a jealous God.

  3. I had hoped and prayed for a certain chapter to end a certain way, MY way, which I was convinced was also HIS way. At the moment I still wait for the end of the chapter to be written. The waiting has driven me deeper into HIS Word, reacquainting me with HIS truth and reaffirming in my heart my need and desire to trust and obey … and wait for HIS timing and HIS working out things according to HIS great love and compassion, mercy and grace. It has by far been the biggest spiritual challenge of my life (and I’ve had a few!) … and I fully anticipate the final chapter will be the biggest spiritual victory. He continues to grow me even after 60+ years of being His follower. Continues to amaze, continues to care. What more could we ask for?

    • Each time my faith is challenged, I seem to grow closer to Him; not that I ask for it, but I am learning to count it all a joy because I know that my God is working some things in and out of me! Thank you for your faithfulness to follow hard after Christ – a long obedience for certain. Praying with you tonight!

  4. Elaine, I do not know what you are going through right now, but I do know the One, Who knows and cares and loves. Jesus hears your heart. I pray that He wraps you in His loving arms of peace. And, yes, keep reading Psalm 91. What comfort it has had and is still having in my life. Much love.

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