Saving the World: Saving us


Rev. Peter E. Bauer

United Church of Christ Minister

Several years ago, I saw a bumper sticker on the back of an old Volkswagen beetle car in San Diego, Ca which read:

“God said it,

“I believe it,

“That settles it.”

I remember that when I read it, I thought, “Yes, that’s one way to state your belief regarding faith in God. If it were always that easy!”

But I have found, and maybe you have too, that life is not always that easy. Life is not always that clear regarding what will happen to you and what will happen next.

The journey of faith is, sometimes, anything must simple and without struggling with the unknown.

When I joined the Navy in December 1984 and went to Chaplain School in Newport, Rhode Island and went on to my first duty station in Okinawa, Japan at the Naval Hospital, there were a lot of challenges, getting used to Navy culture and how decisions were made within a military chain of command, learning about the Okinawan culture and people, learning about working with other professional disciplines and learning about myself and learning that I could fall in love and meet my life partner.

All these events were huge for me in helping me to become a better servant minister and leader.

One night, I was at a party with some friends from the hospital. Suddenly, my beeper went off. It was Labor and Delivery and they wanted me to come up and baptize an infant who had died. Within a few minutes there I was on the L @ D deck, in my golf shirt, shorts and sandals holding the membranes of the dead baby and pouring water over its head and saying, “With this water, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and The Holy Spirit.”

I then went into the adjacent patient room and sat with the mother and father (who was active-duty Navy) for a long time as they comforted each other through their tears.

I realized that night how real and how excruciating real ministry can be, especially when there are events of real tragedy. I appreciated that yes God in Jesus does save us but that we also save one another as believers in Christ and as members of the church universal.

I knew that there was truth in the bumper sticker message:

“God said it,

“I believe it,

“That settles it.”

But I also knew there was more, way more that yet needed to be revealed.

“Let there be light” became a powerful reality for me, more than just an apt saying.

During my years serving in the military and in my years providing professional clinical services to military and veteran personnel, I have heard many instances when people were saved from being killed.

“My vehicle turned one direction and we went down the road, and the vehicle behind me turned another direction and got blown by a vehicle borne Improvised Explosive Device (IED). I felt terrified and relieved and then I wondered why the other military service member was killed and why am I still alive?”

For those who have fought in war and have endured combat trauma, ” Survivor Guilt ” is very real and can be permanent fixture for the service member in their life.

For some people going through such a horrendous event can be life altering, it can be ” a born-again experience. ” Some service members will say, in some instances, when they return from a deployment, ” I don’t take anything for granted now. Life is very precious and it’s important to love your family, friends and community and hopefully feel closer to God. “

This kind of metanoia process is not easy, it is not without pain and struggle. It’s not uncommon to hear service members question themselves and say, ” Who was I then, who am I now, and who will I be in the future? “

A few weeks later after the incident on the Labor and Delivery unit, I was asked to make a pastoral call to a Navy sailor and his family. They lived in an area that was not far from the East China sea. The weather was warm and sunny as I walked through their neighborhood. 

When I arrived at their house, I found sorrow.

The spouse had just lost her baby due to an incident of ” Sudden Infant Death (SIDS). The spouse was understandably inconsolable. The service member tried to be Stoic, but you could tell he was visibly shaken and upset. He complained that he was having sleep problems and that his blood pressure was going up. He was only in his early 30’s. A contemporary for me given that we were about the same age.

Most of the visit was spent in silence, being supportive of them while they expressed grief. I asked them if they would like a referral to the Social Work Department at the hospital. I also made a referral to them for the organization Compassionate Friends and our then local Okinawa Chapter H.O.P.I.N.G (Helping Other Parents in Normal Grieving). I was hoping that by getting them connected to other grieving parents, that they might find solace and support.

Yes, I think back to the bumper sticker I saw on the back of the Volkswagen beetle in San Diego, Ca

“God said it,

“I believe it,

“That settles it.”

I understand the sincerity of that faith claim and yet I know that there is more to know and to experience.

“Let there be light” for all of us now and forever more.

May it be so.

Rev. Peter E. Bauer is a United Church of Christ minister. He has been a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Medium.Com.


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