Sure Mercies

US troops in the desert

WOKE WITH a start at 2:00 a.m. Outside, chilly winds whistled through restless tree limbs, and at first I thought it was the light tapping of a pine branch against my window which had interrupted my rest. In the next instant, however, I knew I had been awakened to pray for my granddaughter’s husband, Cameon—a young soldier deployed to an especially dangerous area of Afghanistan.

My mind drifted back to a beautiful day in May. The sun shone brightly on new green grass as flower petals floating from young fruit trees promised summer growth. Cameon, resplendent in his Army dress uniform, stood transfixed at the end of the path as my granddaughter, Kirstin, in a shimmering white dress, strolled down a flower-strewn aisle to meet him before their minister—my husband and her beaming grandfather. The small group of assembled family and close friends listened as the two high school sweethearts repeated the ancient marriage vows, then celebrated the happy couple at their joyous wedding reception. In due time, their union was blessed with the birth of their first child, a beautiful daughter they named Payton, who owned her daddy’s heart from her first breath.

Now, I could only wonder what was happening on some faraway battlefield that could change all of their lives forever. I shuddered involuntarily at the thought.

My concerns quickly became prayers of petition for the young man I had come to love as a grandson. For the next several hours, I cried out to God for him.

Early in his deployment, God had given me specific scriptures to claim for Cameon every day. First, He called my attention to a single sentence recorded four times: “The Lord preserved David wherever he went” (2 Sam. 8:6, 14; 1 Chron. 18:6, 13 NKJV). In all of his battles, in all of his hand-to-hand combat, David had never once been wounded. The Lord also led me to these scriptures:

• Isaiah 55:3: “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”

• Acts 13:34: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.”

• Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”

• Job 5:20: “He shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword.”

That long night, I trusted those promises as I had each day, believing that the God who had preserved David wherever he went, would give the identical sure mercies to our Cameon. Finally, peace came to my troubled heart and I drifted off to sleep again, knowing that, somehow, someway, God would shelter our soldier and protect him from harm.

An hour away at her parents’ home where she lived during Cameon’s deployment, Kirstin slept peacefully beside their infant daughter. Suddenly, she was awakened with the alarming knowledge that Cameon needed her prayers immediately. Just as I had, she spent the next few hours crying out to God for her husband’s life.

Early that morning, Kirstin called me. As we compared notes, we realized the Lord had arranged for Cameon to be covered in prayer for the entire night here—that is, the entire day in Afghanistan. We could only wonder what God had in store. We prayed together over the telephone, and I reassured her as I reassured myself that Cameon would be safe in the hands of the loving God who had awakened us both to pray. We encouraged ourselves with the certain knowledge that our intercessory prayers were a kind of spiritual warfare, and that our God never got into a battle, or called us into one, that He did not plan to win. Our conversation closed with Kirstin’s assurance that she would call as soon as she heard anything. All that was left to do was trust God and wait.

I thought back some 50 years, to the bittersweet days when my husband and I were also high school sweethearts who were separated for long months during his service in the Navy. Back then, letters were our only means of communication, and those were few and far between since his duty on a submarine patrolling under the oceans offered few opportunities to send or receive mail. I remembered the dear postman who, knowing our situation, never failed to whistle “Anchors Aweigh” to alert me whenever he placed one of those precious letters in my mailbox. Now, military families are in touch nearly every day by cell phone, email, or Skype. I knew it wouldn’t be long until Kirstin and I had our answer.

Finally, that evening, Kirstin phoned again, her voice quivering as she told me Cameon had just called. “When I asked him how he was,” she reported, “all he said was, ‘Alive.’ ” The trembling tone with which she related his words let me know he had experienced a terribly close call.

She continued, “Cameon and his squad were out on a mission when suddenly a Taliban soldier crouching in front of them fired his automatic weapon directly at them at point-blank range. Before he could move, four bullets came right at him.”

Before he could move, four bullets came right at him.

She continued in a hushed whisper like that heard in a quiet chapel when one has touched the divine and is left barely able to speak by the overwhelming majesty of that hallowed moment.

“Nannie, you won’t believe this. One bullet grazed his helmet, one went right past his cheek, another stirred up the dust beside his foot, and the last one severed the shoelace on his boot. But Nannie,” she said as her voice grew even more muted with wonder, “none of them ever even touched him!”

I believed every word of it, because my Lord is the shield for His own, the strong Tower into which they can run for safety. He does battle for His children every day, but we seldom get to witness it quite so dramatically.

We cried and prayed together, praising God for His miracle and thanking Him for waking us both and allowing us the profound privilege of participating in it with Him. We were left awed by such a God. The precious One who had preserved David had given our Cameon those same mercies. And, as it turned out, it wouldn’t be the last time.

An enemy grenade tossed over a wall exploded a few feet away from Cameon, but did not harm him. The vehicle in which he and his sergeant were traveling hit an IED—one of those diabolical devices which has taken so many lives—but neither he nor his sergeant were injured. Again and again, those sure mercies that had preserved David in the face of all his enemies protected one modern-day soldier against all of his.

Our courageous Cameon returned to his family on September 7, 2012. Today, he watches in wide-eyed wonder as his now 1-year-old daughter toddles into his waiting arms. He will soon enter Army Ranger school to prepare for even more deployments and ever more hazardous assignments. But Kirstin and I will be praying, and we know that the God who preserved him in Afghanistan will walk with him into his future.

December, 2012

Susan L. Smith, Ph.D., lives in Baltimore, Maryland.