December 26, 2008

The Journey Begins!

The thought of joining the United States Military first crossed my mind during my sophomore year of college during a labor day activity. I saw some men recruiting for the National Guard and me and a friend approached them to simply get the free perks we knew they would be offering. T-Shirts, key chains, a video game, and some literature. At that point in my life Military service was the farthest thing from my mind.

I was attending a Christian college preparing to go into the Ministry. Bible classes, ministries, homework, a part time job, friends and fun were all that concerned me at that point. Unfortunately, I have yet to finish my degree for ministry work. In the eyes of many it did seem unfortunate. I was so close to finishing, it seemed as if all that time and money has been wasted. But God knows best. I was not ready to graduate. Spiritually, I was in no position to hold a degree in Pastoral Theology and that became very evident when I left a year early.

I went home ashamed that I had failed to live up to the expectations of family, friends, pastors, and church members. It was sudden, it was unexpected, and it was a big eye opener in my life. Up to that point I lived to please others. I lived as I thought I was supposed to live, rather then in obedience to God. I looked like a “good Christian” yet inside I was vain.

I did my best to establish that real relationship with God once again, I quit pretending to be something that I wasn’t. I realized that I am nothing without God and will fail every time apart from Him. My sudden end to college humbled and shamed me like nothing else before or since. I took that experience of humbleness and shame, that life lesson that God was trying to teach me and I used it in my ministries back at home. I did my best to instill in the life of the teens I worked with to just “be real.” I pleaded with the children to continue coming to Sunday School and I did my best to entertain them and teach them as we rode in together on that great big bus. In my heart I knew that if they could solidify that true relationship with Christ now, then they would not have to go through the shame and guilt that I felt at that time in my life. It took a few months, but I came to realize that though I had fallen, I did not have to stay down. God was more then capable of removing the shame and guilt and restoring me unto Himself….and He did.

It was expected of me to go back to college as soon as possible. It was asked of me several times by friends and family when I was planning on going back. I wanted to go back myself and if I had simply done what everyone wanted me to do then I’d probably be there now. But I learned to quit living for others. Instead, I sought Almighty God Himself and once again I laid my life at His feet and simply asked, “Lord, what next?”

I was reminded of those recruiters that I met a few years earlier, but quickly brushed the thought out of my mind. In my head I knew the Military was a tough place full of rough people. Certainly no place for a Christian preparing for the Ministry. As I read my Bible the words of Paul admonishing Epaphroditus (Php 2:25), Timothy (II Tim. 2:3-4), and Archippus (Phm. 1:2), as “fellow soldiers” seemed to resonate in my mind and heart more then ever. I reasoned in my mind that this was simply a comparison of what a good Christian should be. A soldier is tough, so Christians should be tough; a soldier wars despite fear, a good Christian should do the same spiritually; a soldier never gives up so long as he has breath, a Christian likewise should be faithful until he’s home in heaven. It was all metaphorical, none of these good Christians were actual soldiers, just like soldiers. I was certain that these thoughts and feelings of joining the Military were not for me. Yet, the prompting of His Holy Spirit continued and I steadily rejected the idea.

Not obeying God and doing what others expected of me is what got me in trouble the first time. So I prayed hard that if this is what is to be for my life at this time then God would need to make it very clear to me. So I prayed and continued reading my Bible. I talked with my parents and to my surprise they were not against it. I talked to my Pastor and though he seemed shocked that I was considering it, he too was not against it. I talked with other Christians who had prior military service and they too gave great advice and related to me first hand the blessings and obstacles a practicing Christian would face. In the midst of all this I came across Acts chapter ten as I was reading in God’s Word and found a man name Cornelius.

Cornelius was a fine example of a Christian. The Bible describes him as a devout man, one who feared God, gave to the poor, and prayed to God always. His walk with God was such that it warranted a visit of His Holy angels. The message of the angels from God gave clear instructions to Cornelius and he promptly obeyed. This man of God, this devout Christian, who seeks God’s face and gives to his fellow man, who drops all to obey His voice was in fact a Centurion. A soldier in the literalistic sense of the word. He was not like a soldier, he did not just have the qualities of a soldier, he was in fact a soldier and a Christian at the same time. He must have been a good Soldier as he commanded a hundred others below him; and indeed he was a good Christian as we can clearly tell from the description in Acts. It was indeed possible for a Christian to be in God’s perfect will and be in the Armed Services.

Upon reading this portion of Scripture it became clear to me what God wanted for my life. After several visits with a recruiter, hours researching on the internet, and three visits to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station), I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. I remember very clearly and distinctly that precise moment when after several visits with my recruiter I finally confirmed my decision to join I breathed a sigh of relief. My struggle and resistance to God’s leading had ended after months of pushing Him away.

I told very few people of my decision to join. It seems that those who know me best think I am making a mistake. As word began to spread of my decision people have said, “Oh, that’s interesting”, or “Why would you do that?” Some have even been as bold to say, “I just don’t think that is God’s will for your life.” Others by their silence condemn me. A few years ago the approval of all those around me was all I was seeking, and living in such a way caused me to fall. I seek no ones approval now other then God’s. I know that this is what God has for me now and I am excited about what He wants to do through me and for me in these next five years of service to Him and Country.

Not everyone that has learned of my decision to join have condemned me. Some have thanked me, others have congratulated me, some have said they are proud of me, almost all have offered their prayers for me. Whether praised or condemned I will obey God.

My journey as a Christian Marine will officially began on April 3, 2009 when I graduate from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. I will be leaving for Recruit Training on January 5, 2009. I know I have not earned the title “Marine”, but the purpose of this Blog is Chronicle that journey from beginning to end. Let the journey begin!