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Purple Heart

September 15, 2020
Photo credit: The U.S. Army on Visual Hunt / CC BY

“…There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24, NIV 1984).


His medical issue was minor, so we had time to talk about life rather than his health. On his hat band was a purple heart and two medals of valor won in Vietnam, one for manning a machine gun against all odds and the other for dragging a wounded comrade out of harm’s way. His life since has been difficult. “The woman I was living with accused me of harming her child. It was a lie, but it stuck. I looked at God and told Him, ‘If that’s the way it is; well, da*n you.’ I’ve lived a very immoral life since then and done things no one should do.” He paused and then continued, “I feel a lot of guilt for that, but I’m different than I was the last time I was here. I have a new peace with God. I’ve been spending time in the Word.”


We all have a story, perhaps not so heroic or tragic or riddled with guilt as this redeemed soldier, but we all have a story. Most of us have not cursed God and done horribly immoral things, just as most of us have not saved the lives of friends in jungle firefights. But we all, at some level, have both greatness and decadence in our lives.


As Oswald Chambers put it: “There is a potential hero in every man—and a potential skunk.”


In our story, like this patient, we have done both amazing things and horrible things. All of us, in some way, search our own stories to decide for ourselves if we are “good.” But no matter the balance between the amazing and the horrible, life will never balance out in our favor unless we get to choose how we are measured. Since there are tons of people whose lives are worse than mine, I choose them when I measure myself.


But that doesn’t work. No matter how we compare ourselves, the balance for any of us can never win us a seat near the Father, who measures us all against His Son and against who we were meant to be.


As Richard John Neuhaus reminds us in Death on a Friday Afternoon: “Our lives are not measured by the lives of others, nor by our own ideals, nor by what we think might reasonably be expected of us…our lives are measured by who we are created and called to be, and the measuring is done by the one who creates and calls.”


We all have a great story. But our stories will never be good enough without Jesus, and they can never so be bad that the cross can’t measure us in.


Dear Father,

Thank you for giving me my story and for recreating it through Jesus.


Al Weir, MD

Al Weir, MD

After leaving academic medicine, Dr. Weir served in private practice at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee from 1991-2005 before joining the CMDA staff as Vice President of Campus & Community Ministries where he served for three years from 2005-2008. He is presently Professor of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Program Director for the Hematology/Oncology fellowship program. He is also President of Albanian Health Fund, an educational ministry to Albania where he has been serving for 20 years. He is the author of two books: When Your Doctor Has Bad News and Practice by the Book. Dr. Weir’s work has also been published in many medical journals and other publications. Al and his wife Becky live in Memphis, Tennessee, and they have three children and three grandchildren. Dr. Weir is currently serving on CMDA's Board of Trustees.

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