4 July 2005, what a patriotic day to be shipped off to basic training!
Jeans, a t-shirt, and a backpack with just about every essential I thought I would need, I left home for Lackland AFB, TX where I would spend the next few weeks learning to be an Airman in the U.S. Air Force. Most who endure basic training are glad it’s over when it’s time, but just about everyone I know says they’d do it again in a heartbeat. Crazy? Possibly.
That’s the U.S. military. I remember growing up on several bases (dad was in the Army) and at Sunday school we’d sing the patrio-christian verses,
I may never run with the infantry,
shoot the artillery,
ride with the cavalry,
fly over the enemy,
but I’m in the Lord’s Army, YES SIR!
Acting like we were marching in place and doing the choreography to act out the lyrics, we happily played soldier in order to understand the message. That was child’s play though. The real military is tough work at 19 years old. They say “it’s the worst job you’ll ever love, and the best job you’ll ever hate.” My experience in the Air Force was short, but I really grew up, and grew strong quickly. That July day I didn’t know where I would be going. After basic training, then tech school, and a stint helping clean up hurricane Katrina which all took about 10 months, I received orders to Alaska. I still didn’t know where I was going but I went anyways, ready for anything.
Making my four year obligation all I would serve, I got out and realized just how different the outside was. There is something of another world of difference between those who have worn the uniform, ironed it daily, stood in formation, and took some serious “smoke sessions” (where you “get smoked” for doing the wrong thing) that just doesn’t leave your skin and your soul when you out-process and zip up that uniform into a bag and put it in a corner of your closet. Forever strong, forever different.
I became a Christian in the Air Force as well. Giving God my life without a clue where it would take me, it was just like the military. As a Catholic and Christian, I am now in the Lord’s Army, truly. My higher command, God, knew my orders but didn’t tell me until the time was appropriate. Even then, I still had questions. “How do I get there?” “Can I take anything with me?” Serving God is truly analogous to being in the Lord’s Army.
In the Lord’s Army, you better get straight on these tactical tools and characteristics of a good soldier:
- Know your field manual, your Bible. Read it, know it, live it. Let it be your daily bread and your sword when in a match with your enemy, and let it supplement you in teaching you and equipping your for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
- Understand your enemy. Employ counterintelligence tactics that will help you be on your guard from the imminent attacks of the Enemy.
- Know your spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) and make sure you know how to use it, and what it’s for.
- Communications is everything. On the battlefield or in the cockpit, use your radio to call on your friends to support. That means pray to God, daily and know what signals He is sending and call on your Church on Earth and in Heaven for intercession.
- There are many seasons in your life and the first few as a Christian you must spend training and from there continue to retrain and refresh yourself on the basics I outlined. Those will be your bread and butter, or better yet, your spiritual MRE and canteen.
In this Call of Duty, you are called to live as a leader. Forever strong, forever different. You might dress like everyone else but you will be expected to act different than everyone else. Just like in the U.S. military, people are naturally going to expect a sense of service and selflessness from you. Endure this demand. Retirement from Christianity is not an option. You might cross-train into a different ministry and career or you might take on special project like being a father or student. All soldiers are different so have an open mind and let God put the responsibilities He has in mind for you. Remember you have orders and they were made according to your Commander’s evaluation of what he knows you are capable of!
The men and women who graduate boot camp and basic training successfully might sound crazy for wanting to do it all over again but there is a real truth there. In hindsight they realize that gave it their all, but in the 20/20 vision of the past, they know they also received hard work from their team and at no other time on their life did they feel so joined as one unit to the person next to them as they counted on them for survival. I pray that we all come to that sense of family in the Lord’s Army. I hope that when we are done, we might not have known where we were going, but we know we gave it our all, and that the person next to us did the same.