military & ministry

Until 2011 my knowledge of the U.S. military and it’s members was limited to a distant, great uncle who served in the Navy. Quite honestly, I just didn’t care about the military. I didn’t (and still don’t) keep up with current, global or political events. I was happy to get a day off in school on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Back then, that was the extent of my interaction with and concern for the military.

Fast forward a few years and our family is now a part of the roughly 1% of the United States population that is affiliated with the armed forces. It is a small group of people that are easily invisible if they aren’t on your radar. Chances are you probably only know a handful of people who have served and even fewer who currently serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard. And that’s cool. Until a few years ago I was in the same place.

In 2011 my husband, Ryan, was endorsed by our denomination and attended his initial officer training to be an Army Chaplain. To say that this lifestyle change was an adjustment is a gross understatement. Long ago, Ryan and I gave our lives to the service of Christ and have long felt a calling to ministry. As life would lead us, God called our family to serve our nation as well.

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This military-life, like many other types of service, involves much sacrifice. In the past three years, I have become a part of a sisterhood of military families who make sacrifices that most will never dream of. I don’t share this to complain or say that our life is hard. I share because many don’t even know what military families face. (Thankfully, we all face these challenges together.)

In our years of military service, Ryan has been away from our family more than half of the time. From school, training and a recent deployment to Afghanistan, his duty takes him away from our family quite often.

I have been in an ongoing battle with myself to make sense of how God can call a family to such a situation. How can God’s will for our family be to keep us apart more than we’re together? How can God’s will for my marriage be to have me alone and apart from Ryan’s physical, emotional and spiritual covering when he is very much out of contact when he’s away? How can God’s will for our children be to spend so much time without their dad in the home nurturing them? If I’m honest, I question how it can be God’s will for our family to move so far away from the natural support system of our extended families?

In my search for these answers I have come up short. I have come to realize that God is God and I am not; He is omniscient and I am little-knowing. I may never grasp the answers to these questions. And even if I never do, will I be okay with all of this?

Here is where that tricky word, obedience, comes into play. And here is what I do know. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we heard from the Lord when He called our family to the ministry opportunity of military chaplaincy. I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was at work when doors flew open at almost warp speed enabling Ryan to pursue this mission field.

And most importantly, as I have learned by walking through the fire, God’s promise to never leave us nor forsake us is ABSOLUTELY true.

I’m sure throughout our time in God’s service for Him and our country, I’ll be given many, many more opportunities to see God’s faithfulness and provision at work.

The funny thing is that despite all of the personal and family challenges that we face, our faith has been strengthened, our familial bond has tightened, and our view of the world has broadened.

The older I get the more I am convinced that we don’t grow unless we are willing to change and stretch. We don’t gain strength unless we see our own weakness apart from Christ.

And so when I let all of that sink in to my heart, I see the beauty and joy and blessings in this endeavor. And I am excited to see this story play out for our family. Even when it’s tough, even when Ryan is gone (a lot), even when I have been brought low to my knees in my own powerlessness, God is faithful.

The Army’s most recent slogan is “Army Strong.” This motto promotes the idea of power and strength and certain unbreakableness. When I think “Army Strong” I think of a group of people with formidable toughness and potency.

But I don’t consider myself that way at all. In fact, it makes me anxious to be a family apart of those kind of expectations.

Because I know in the kingdom of God just opposite is true. In God’s economy weakness ranks above strength.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” {2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV}

Life on this Army-path is providing me so many opportunities to showcase my weaknesses. But I take joy and delight in knowing from where (and whom) my strength comes. I’m grateful that God has called us to a life that isn’t easy or routine or predictable. I’m grateful He sees in our family, willing vessels that He can use. Being apart of this Army-life has provided myriad opportunities to view my weaknesses. But on the flip-side, this adventure is teaching me total obedience, total reliance and total dependance on Christ, my Redeemer.

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