While I was at my son, Tim’s, last week I read a book from my grandson’s bookshelf. It was not at all the kind of thing I usually read. It was the story of an American pilot shot down behind enemy lines in the Yugoslav War.

This young man was absolutely alone in hostile territory for several days, trying to stay invisible until he could contact American forces with his faulty radio. There were a few close calls when search parties or civilians came close to him in his various hiding places, but mostly his problems were technological.

Even so, this was a situation, of course, of high stress. When he finally managed to establish contact with the air force, he was told he would be rescued several hours later. His response was along the lines of “No, I need to get out right now.” And rescue crews honored that. They came almost immediately, at great risk to themselves.

He returned to the States to a hero’s welcome. He has never apologized for being terrified, nor should he. In spite of his terror, he was absolutely faithful to his calling and did exactly what he should have done.

I was interested in the grace the world showed to this young man in his weakness. Isn’t it ironic that we Christians can be so hard on ourselves in our challenges? We so easily despise ourselves in our imperfection, and our default position can be to feel God also holds us in contempt.

I was once talking with a friend about a part of life – I don’t even remember what, now – perhaps relationships – and was mourning the fact that my performance was sometimes just that. Without the desired ‘sincerity’.

She said, “ Nevertheless, you are doing what is right  –  because you love God and want to please him. That is a high form of service, and very beautiful.”

Like that young pilot, really, on a ‘sacred’ level.

Weren’t those lovely, life-giving words?