What Howard Learned in Heartbreak

Howard Rutledge, a United States Air Force pilot, was shot down over North Vietnam during the early stages of the War. He spent several miserable years in the hands of his captors before being released at the war’s conclusion. In his book In the Presence of Mine Enemies, he reflects upon the resources from which he drew in those arduous days when life seemed so intolerable:

“During those longer periods of enforced reflection, it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste. For example, in the past, I usually worked or played hard on Sundays and had no time for church. For years Phyllis [his wife] had encouraged me to join the family at church. She never nagged or scolded, she just kept hoping. But I was too busy, too preoccupied, to spend one or two short hours a week thinking about the really important things. Now the sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me. My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. Now I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. But in Heartbreak’s [the name POWs gave their prison camp] solitary confinement, there was no preacher, no Sunday School teacher, no Bible, no hymnbook, no community of believers to guide and sustain me. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God.”

It took the presence of a POW camp to show Rutledge that there was a center to his private world that he had been neglecting all of his life.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecc. 12:13).

Gordon MacDonald
via Laings church of christ
Laings, OH

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