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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hidden Greatness

 It was a warm and sunny afternoon as I strolled through the many rows of white gravestones. For the first time in my life, I was fulfilling a long-time wish to visit the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. Not only had I hoped to see the more widely-recognized graves like the Eternal Flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but I had also planned on paying my respects at the graves of four very special young of whom I knew.
 On my way to finding their final resting place, the meaning of such great sacrifice was driven home as I witnessed the end of a caisson funeral procession for one who had recently passed on. Sounds of "Taps" echoed around the cemetery and, nearby, the Navy Band played "America the Beautiful" as the rhythmic beat of the horses took the casket past me.
 Upon reaching the area where the four fallen service members lie, I was struck by something profound as I found each one's gravesite: there was no mention of "loving husband" or "father, brother, and friend." It was simply a name, rank, dates, and military honors.

 I was very intrigued by this because I realized that, in the case of three of the fallen heroes, there was a story that went far beyond such humble mention. Daniel Clay, Benjamin Tiffner, and Andy Kim were three young men who lived boldly for their Lord. The lives they impacted in their short time on earth will only be calculable in Heaven. The stories I have heard about these individuals and the influence they continue to have today, even through their death, never cease to amaze me. 
 As I stood and thought about the incredible witness these fellows were for God, it struck me that greatness is sometimes hidden. In looking at these headstones, it is clear that they don't tell everything about these guys. They are...well...extremely humble. Understated. Plain. 
 But often, this is how a true leader makes a difference. It isn't often in the obvious ways but the simple acts of extraordinary faith and love that set someone apart from others. From the outside, we can often judge a person and think that they do not have the "it" factor; they don't have the flash, the good looks, the charisma, the talent, etc. And so we pass them by...missing the fact that they just might be the one God has chosen for an extraordinary destiny. Their greatness isn't easily discernible...except to those who know what to look for and where to find it. To those whose lives that individual has touched, that person is special and they know that the outside doesn't tell the whole story. 
 A true leader doesn't announce to the world how great he or she is. They simply live it - quietly, humbly, honorably - every single day. They choose faith over fear. They choose trust over worry. They choose God over themselves. And they serve. They serve selflessly in whatever way they can. Because they know this life isn't about them to begin with. And one by one, they make a difference. They change the world, one act at a time. I've personally come to know people like this, and it has never failed to change who I am every single time. Because often, I've judged people by what I can tell first-off and failed to see what their heart truly is about. I've gone by my own perception and later been convicted of how blind I really am. 
 In walking away from those grave sites, I made a choice to look for greatness in the least-expected places. To come around to how God sees hearts...not how I view the exterior. What matters to Him often is considered irrelevant to the world...but that's okay. Because He's about the unseen. I just have to ask Him for sight so that I do not miss His "angels unawares" whoever they may be.