Prisoners of War

A group of Navy SEALs were performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a building is some dark part of the world. They stormed into the room where the hostages had been imprisoned for months. The room was filthy and dark. The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified. When the SEALs entered the room, they heard the gasps of the hostages. They stood at the door and called to the prisoners, telling them they were Americans. The SEALS asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn’t. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. ~ Donald Miller

Miller goes on to describe the events that followed. The SEALs were at a loss. The ones they came to rescue didn’t trust them until one of the men put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the prisoners. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them, something no prison guards would do. He was trying to show them he was one of them. He waited until eventually they began to meet his gaze. Then he whispered that they were Americans and had come to rescue them. Will you follow us? he asked. As he stood, one by one, the hostages did the same until all of them were willing to follow him to freedom.

The soldier had shifted from a position of authority to becoming like the hostages in their suffering. Miller says this is the story that helped Christianity make sense to him. He could see the parallel of God becoming a man, joining us in our suffering so that we would know it’s safe to follow Him.

I think it also applies in another way. We’re often at a loss when those we’re trying to rescue won’t follow. Maybe it’s because of our tendency to storm into the room, armed with all of the answers.

As we seek to serve the One who sets the hostage free, it’s time to put aside our weapons that wound (attitudes, words, actions), soften the look on our faces and the condition of our hearts, and get so close that we touch those we hope to reach. It’s a risky operation, all of that touching instead of just telling. There’s a universal code word for it: grace.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

71 thoughts on “Prisoners of War”

  1. Greg – thank you, my friend.
    I have really limited internet access right now so I’m not able to be on-line much. It was so encouraging to get here tonight and find your kind words.
    Thank you.
    (as is always the case – the hard work of the posts are done by the authors I quote – I just tag on a few of my thoughts – but thank you!) 🙂

  2. This is without a doubt one of the best posts you have ever done, come to think of it, it is one of the best I have ever read period.

    And to think you were considering hanging it up at one point…bad idea. 🙂 Thank you for continuing to bless us my sister, I’m so thankful you are here to be a light to so many.

    Love to you my friend

  3. I was raised by a wounded barker, who taught me how to be a wounded barker, so I raised a wounded barker too. Now that I’m walking in recovery, I’ve calmed down the barking, and healing. Recovery is showing me what I learned, what became habit, what I taught out of habit and fear of failure; and how I can, by turning it over to my Higher Power, and following His directions, change, and learn new habits of being gentle, and loving. I’m slowly learning how to hold again, and let my heart open to someone else’s needs. I’m also learning to love and hold my heart. Trust is seeping back in there too. Encouraging, uplifting and memorable!Thank you for this post Debbie!

    1. Hello Cynthia!
      Such honest and vulnerable sharing – thank you.
      Our (including mine here) unhealthy habits are so hard to identify and break and harder yet is replacing them with healthy ones. My brokenness is what opened my heart up to grace (without that deep awareness of what I couldn’t do, I didn’t ‘need’ grace).
      It’s encouraging to hear of the healing taking place in your heart and in your life. A wounded barker – such a sad but perfect word picture.
      I appreciate you taking the time to read here and to leave your thoughts with us. Thank you, again.

    1. Ian –
      Isn’t that so true with everything we write. It one thing to theorize, it’s another to actualize. I love your heart, by the way (i.e. comments to Mel).
      I’ve loved it from the first time I visited you.
      My internet is almost non-existent but I hope to try to catch up soon on your new endeavor!

  4. You hit it out of the park with this one lady! I have shared this on my face book. We all can learn so much from this post.

      1. I recognize that there is so much being said written out there that if beyond my own humble words and so I like to share! 🙂 thank you for the good read!

  5. your words bless me today! I have never seen a comparison like this……makes it so clear doesn’t? that God came down to us! thanks for writing!

    1. dear Planting Potatoes –
      I’m sorry to be so slow in responding. I live in an area with limited internet access so I’m just now able not to see your comments.
      I think stories often help and Miller’s story of the hostages certainly did make it clear to me… and for me!
      (by the way, every time I see Planting Potatoes I smile – name of your blog is an instant encouragement!)
      Thanks for being here!
      I’m virtually unable to read blogs (until the wind changes?) but hope to visit you soon!

  6. Gracious one . .I think this is one of your best. And I think that it is going to be exactly what each of us will need to do for someone else . Thank you so much for letting us go along on the grace journey with you. He is helping change our lives through you. love and prayers and blessings!

    1. Hello dear Deb –
      Yes, I so agree, we all need to do this – I need to do this more and more.
      I’m honored to have your love and prayers and encouragement in this journey of grace.
      Thank you.

  7. I’m a Miller fan too but don’t recall this particular story. It gives me a real mental image and message about our methods and heart. Yes, it’s risky but worth it. Wonderful, my friend.

    1. Debby,
      You, my friend, have a very long reach. You not only touch all those you so diligently serve in ‘graceland’ but you touch me day after day.
      I’m only part way through Blue Like Jazz. Typically, I’m reading several books at a time and I’m a very slow reader. This was sort of a side story – not emphasized – so I’m not surprised you don’t remember it. It was just the right timing for me.
      It’s like reading scripture and one day you read a verse that you could almost swear wasn’t there before. You found it when you needed it. I think I found this story when I needed the reminder. 😀

  8. WOW, Debbie–this is powerful good, and nearly knocked me flat. Softening my face and voice is probably the toughest, since I’ve been habituated from childhood to believe that “mean” is “normal”, and gets results (which I KNOW is NOT True–but that’s the problem with ingrained habits…). “Touching instead of Telling”–that’s Jesus Grace, for sure. God bless you big today and always–love, sis Caddo

    1. Hello dear Caddo –
      I’m truly and deeply sorry for the harshness that informed your childhood.
      It breaks my heart.
      And yet, now, by His grace, you leave tracks of joy where ever you go.:D

      I think the majority of meanness originates in fear – but that’s a thought for another time.
      Thank you, friend, for always reading and thinking and sharing God’s love with us.

      1. Debbie, I SO agree that meanness originates in fear, truly. Unfortunately, a child doesn’t have the experience, maturity, wisdom to understand that. And the further tragedy is that, by the time I did understand this truth–it was too late to salvage anything of my relationship with mom. Yes, by His grace I am determined to leave only joyful, encouraging fingerprints now–but I confess it’s easier to do so on the blogs, than in “real” life–arrgghh.

    1. Hello dear SueBE –
      It’s good to see you and thank you!
      It’s always easier to write than to do. I’ve written. I’m working on the doing.
      Blessing to you, too!

  9. What a beautiful post. His heart of compassion is the only thing that draws us to Him.. I like Donald Miller’s writings.. but I don’t remember this passage. He is so honest and transparent. thanks Debbie for sharing all this in such a wonderful way.

    1. Hello Alicia –
      I’m reading Blue Like Jazz right now.
      I don’t generally like to quote an author until I finish a book and have an idea where it’s going. I made an exception here because this story really struck me. Miller shares it more as a point within a point early on which may be why you don’t remember it.
      I’m appreciating his willingness to ask the harder questions and his refusal to settle for pat answers.
      Thank you so much, Alicia, for reading and sharing your thoughts.

    1. Hello dear Susie –
      You’re absolutely right.
      “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

  10. Once again: Gentle Genius. Absolutely right. Absolutely.

    No matter how gentle a word, or a suggestion … there is still hesitation to what may actually sound like a BARK, command, or ultimatum (we don’t always so carefully “consider the source” … or, consider the “consumer” perhaps.

    Someone who holds me and comforts me influences me. Some people can do that with a track record (or proven) kindness, gentleness, wisdom and GRACE!!! XO MEL

    1. Dear Mel –
      What an excellent point – we have to consider both the source and the consumer. And, you’re tight, a track record counts for something. It’s not enough to be there once, to say the kind thing once, to hold a hand once.

      It would be difficult to find someone who doesn’t respond better to comfort and compassion than to criticism and confrontation.
      And yet, the bully pulpit remains in vogue.
      It’s a mystery isn’t it?
      I’ve longed believed (which doesn’t mean it’s true) that only the insecure attack.
      It’s possible for someone to be required to follow, resulting in behavioral adaptations.
      But when someone is compelled to follow, the change becomes foundational.
      “Kindness, gentleness, wisdom and GRACE” – yes, keys to the kingdom and to our hearts.
      Thank you for sharing your heart here. It’s a gift.

      1. Mmmmmmwaaaah! (That’s a kiss)!

        I love what you say “It would be difficult to find someone who doesn’t respond better to comfort and compassion than to criticism and confrontation.

        …. And yet, the bully pulpit remains in vogue”.

        When Jen and I were in college … we were at the end of the 70’s and dipping into the 80’s. “Punk” became the flavor of the day … and i think the 80’s mentality was more harmful than the 70’s me me me mentality.

        It became cool to be “rebellious” in that fashionable way ;-). Frankly, it was just loads of “rebels without a clue” spitting on each other and dancing like pogo sticks (lost and looking) for something to believe in (or somewhere to fit in).

        I think Jen and i played our roles, but we never quite met true “criteria” … but we needed to “fit in” a little.

        The good news is, we always had our Warrior Woman, sista-soul connection … so we DID fit in: We had each other and our deep connection. Jen showed me Grace without knowing it. It may have sustained me for years …

    2. “Someone who holds me and comforts me influences me.”
      Oh, Mell, what a stunning comment. It goes to the heart of it. But barking commands is (sadly) what we do best.

      1. I’ve learned to accept warmth and love and it has made me more loving and warm (at least “mindful” of being loving and warm). I try to pay attention to the barking and harshness when i see it or “do it” … and ask myself “do ya feel better now?” Never do. Undoing harshness and meanness is so much harder than going “good” :-). Thanks Ian~

  11. This is brilliant! ‘put aside our weapons that wound (attitudes, words, actions), soften the look on our faces and the condition of our hearts, and get so close that we touch those we hope to reach.’ It makes me think that if we’re not producing fruit, maybe it’s because we’re sterilized emotionally to the point that nothing really moves us to compassion. The ‘us vs them’ attack method is really hurting the cause of Christ beyond comprehension. Christians may be afraid to show a face of compassion for fear of being soft on sin. This attitude has turned His army into enforcers, not rescuers. It’s difficult to just follow His example and hang out with the unlovable, serving up grace.

    1. Gosh Heidi – you really should write a guest post for me!
      Yes, I do think we see so much pain, even just in the first 5 minutes of each newscast, that most of us have become inoculated. It’s challenging survive and thrive without losing compassion. But once compassion is gone, what good are we to the wounded?
      “The ‘us vs them’ attack method is really hurting the cause of Christ beyond comprehension. Christians may be afraid to show a face of compassion for fear of being soft on sin. This attitude has turned His army into enforcers, not rescuers.”

      You’ve said it perfectly. Thank you for your thoughtful and wise words.

      1. God has used both of us so much in each others lives Debbie for which I am eternally grateful.

        I love reading the responses on this. Heidi, yes!!!
        Gosh Debbie I’m so glad you wrote this.

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