I recently returned from 8 days on the east coast with our 8th grade students, parents, and chaperones. The weather was perfect, and the events of the trip went smoother than anticipated. My favorite part of my many jobs at SVCS is the planning and execution of this amazing experience. And this year was no exception.
While visiting Arlington National Cemetery, I got to experience something I had not before. This year, I was not a designated chaperone of students, but I oversaw all the chaperones and was the point person for getting us where we needed to be. It was go, go, go for 4 days until Thursday, March 5th, when I got to slow down for a minute. At Arlington, I had sent all the groups up and decided I was going to take a few minutes to explore the visitor center (something I hadn’t been able to do on my previous 4 annual trips due to always being in charge of students).
When I was walking back to catch up with a group, I noticed something out in the distance. I got a good look and noticed it was a soldier, coming home to Arlington; not to reunite with his wife and kids, but to remain here, permanently. The red, white, and blue of the American flag draped over his casket was the only color in a sea of white tombstones standing between myself and him.
Fellow service men and women surrounded his final resting place and a man with a booming voice spoke in perfect cadence about, what I can only assume, was the life of this soldier. I was far enough away that I couldn’t make out any of the words, but I felt like I could piece it together. I was far enough away to where I wouldn’t be in the background of their pictures or videos they were taking out of respect for this soldier’s family and friends.
There was a clear path where I COULD walk right up and join them, but I chose to stay far enough away. There were some people who decided to get up close and personal, but I was going to hang back and watch from a distance. From where I was standing, I could spin 360 degrees and see white headstones going out for as far as the hills and trees would let me. But my eyes kept getting drawn back to the soldier being laid to rest.
I stood there and watched for a few more moments, and then I prayed. It wasn’t until I started to pray that I got emotional. Tears were welling up but not falling. I opened my eyes to try and stop because a large group was about to pass by me, and I didn’t want to be “that guy” crying at Arlington.
The group passed, I collected myself and began to talk to God again. Tears were welling up, but not falling. Why? It wasn’t happening while watching the ceremony; it was only when I prayed. And then it struck me. The distance I had maintained from the ceremony was a direct reflection of the distance I had been connecting with God. I chose to be far enough away from God, so he wouldn’t see me vulnerable. He wouldn’t see me cry. I could keep him at a safe distance and call out when I needed him.
The rest of the ceremony went according to plan. The soldier’s casket was taken on the horse drawn carriage and driven to what will be his final resting place in Arlington. Drums and trumpets played the last song for him as they marched through the streets. They marched far enough away to where I could hear but not see them.
Every decision we make selfishly, every thought we have that is impure, every action that causes pain seems to leave God in the distance. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In Romans 8:38-39, it says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When we see him far away, he is right next to us. He hears us and reminds us he will never be far enough away to not cry out and find him.
Hutton Fitch graduated from SVC in 2004 and says it was the positive experiences he had here as a student that made him want to come back and be a part of the school’s ministry. And it’s the positive things he’s witnessed as a staff member that made him equally excited about having his own children attend the school.
Mr. Fitch earned a B.S. in Kinesiology from Cal State University, Fullerton and a M.A. in Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University, Irvine. In his spare time, he enjoys playing and coaching volleyball. But his favorite thing is spending time with his wife Ashley (SVC IT Director) and their three girls. A little known fact about Mr. Fitch? He has a fear of whales!