In the closing scenes of “Saving Private Ryan”, Private Ryan has returned to Normandy as an old man. He has come with his family to pay respects to his fallen brothers. He has returned to the cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach where over nine thousand American dead lay at rest in solemn remembrance of the supreme sacrifice they had made. Kneeling before the grave of Captain John Miller he is overcome with emotions as he remembers the haunting flashbacks of that French village years before. Many had given some during those brutal hours of D-Day but the polished white crosses and Stars of David in that sacred cemetery mark the resting place of those who had given their all.
As Ryan kneels before that marble cross, he replays the painful images of his past and remembers the final words that Captain John Miller whispered to him as he lay dying; “Earn It”. Captain John Miller had sacrificed his life so that young Ryan could live. As Ryan kneels on that sacred soil he desperately needs to know if it had been worth it – had he honored Captain Millers last words? Had he truly earned it? Had he done enough with his life to justify Miller’s death? Had he kept the faith with Miller and the others in the squad who had come to save him? As he stands before Captain Miller’s cross, he implores his wife to tell him what he needed to hear the most; “Tell me I lived a good life; tell me I was a good man.”
I am an old man now nearing the end of my life. I have found myself looking back and asking the same questions and needing the same answers. Haven’t many of us? Don’t you also want to know that you were a good man or a good woman? Don’t you want to know you lived a good life? No doubt we have each had our private doubts at times for each of us are only too aware of how often we have failed, how many mistakes we have made or how much more we might have done. Yet, many of us still yearn to know whether we have lived a life worth living.
A remnant wants to know if they really “fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished their race” looking unto Jesus. Some want to know if they were true to themselves, true to others or lived a life worthy of the highest ideas and the noblest of causes. Most want to know if they were a success, whether the best they could be, whether they enjoyed life to the fullest, experienced all they could experience and enjoyed all the pleasures and thrills that this world had to offer. Some want to know if they will be remembered for their works or their accomplishments or their great endeavors. Some want to know at the end whether they were liked or admired or respected. Some just want to know if they will even be remembered.
When I consider my life in the light of Captain Miller’s dying words to private Ryan I also want to know. When I look at the rollcall of the faithful who have gone before I want to know. But even so, I know that no matter how hard I have tried I will never be able to “earn” enough to pay Him back for all He sacrificed for me. And only He can really tell me what I need to hear.
On that final day when I kneel before Him it will be more than enough just to hear Him say to me, “Well done thou good and faithful servant!” No greater “YES” can be given!