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From his desk in a carpeted bedroom-converted-to-office, the father hears an occasional muffled bump and a sneeze-under blankets as the last daughter beds down for the night in her room, which is straight through the wall. Most nights when he is home, he is called in there for a hug and a prayer and a whispered conversation about the day, in between a giving and taking tickle game. But sometimes the night gets away and they miss their little good-bye. Tonight is one of those.

She is late to bed and he is zoned-out to an office clean up ritual accompanied by an appropriate iTunes mix of Indie—at least that's what his older children would probably describe it as.

Focussing on the job at hand, he begins as he always does: pick up the first thing you see at the top of the pile and just keep going until it's all done, which might take three hours or three days, but it works. And all happening in the ambient environment he himself has carefully chosen: good music, a perfect cup of tea and a warm room.

There goes the first piece of paper, into the bin. Now for the next. Wait! This is an interview with a favourite hero from the war: Captain Winters of Easy Company.

He comes to a place where Winters is explaining how men could be inspired to follow another into the line of fire. 'How do you get the respect of the men?' (Winter's question is rhetorical) 'By living with them, being a part of it. Being able to understand what they are going through and not to separate yourself from them. You have to know your men. You have to gain their confidence. And to gain the confidence of anybody … you must be honest.'

Honest. The word takes the father's mind towards his daughter and son and the fact that soon enough they will both 'go out into the world, into the line of fire,' just as their older brothers and sisters did. He wants to be there with them, like Winters. He knows they will be hurt and disappointed.

But he has another problem: he is a preacher. And preachers—like everyone else these days—get into hyper-reality. What used to be called 'having a lend of yourself.' So, he wonders whether he has been honest enough with them about faith 'born of a furnace of doubt'13; and about his own story. He wishes he could somehow make a bargain with God and give them every ounce of endurance, character and hope that he has gained, even if it did mean that he himself would lose it all.

He remembers that moment of waking to the lilt of a soprano worship song and countless other moments of trust and then gratitude for trust honoured. He remembers treasured walks under stars where a quiet and brooding night had dressed herself in a silk mantle of after-dark and then … instead of words of gratitude, a grown man's tears sobbed-out like those of a child. Then he remembers words from a favourite chapter in the New Testament: 'Suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.'14

 

13Dostoyevsky

14Romans 5: 3 – 5

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