Last week I received prayers by email from two friends whose sons are in the desert—one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Knowing that “Excellent or Praiseworthy” seeks to share spiritual encouragement during the war on terror, these special moms wanted to contribute what they are praying for their sons and their comrades-in-arms. The first email I received said this: “As the mom of a deployed soldier, I’m always looking for ways to pray for my son, something in addition to--‘Lord, keep him safe.’
We gather with military couples every Saturday night for dinner and Bible study. And at the end of our meeting time we take prayer requests—and then pray. But on this particular Saturday night, a certain prayer request brought some deep discussion. One of our young military men voiced discouragement over the atmosphere in his workplace on board ship. There was crudeness—to put it mildly. His desire was to be “light in a dark place”. But, in this current culture, what does that really mean for a Christian serving in today’s military?
During childhood many of us were taught the Lord’s Prayer. We can recite it “from memory” and it doesn’t mean a thing, if we’re not careful. Whether we call it the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Model Prayer” it reads like this in Matthew 6:9-13: “. . . Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts (some say ‘trespasses’), as we forgive our debtors (or ‘those who trespass against us’). And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Whether praying this prayer before going out on patrol in the desert, before going to bed at night, or as part of worship or a discipline of daily time with God, it’s a good reminder to examine this prayer for our “heart attitude” so that it doesn’t become just part of a “check-list of to-dos.”
Picture this—both sides in a battle are lobbing grenades at one another. The grenades blow up causing much destruction on each side. Now imagine that the two sides fighting are really a husband and a wife. The “grenades” are words and actions—and somehow both partners seem surprised when they “blow up”! Lots of hurt. . .lots of anger. . .and it just gets worse and worse. The fighting can continue right into the divorce court. If you’ve ever seen this happening in a couple, or experienced it yourself, you know that it’s just crazy!
I would be surprised if you have gotten through this deployment without any tears. Tears when your spouse left; tears during the long months of separation; tears at special occasions when your loved one’s presence is especially missed . . . tears matter. Tears matter to God.
I think I’m like a lot of military professionals in that I pride myself in being able to make a good plan. After all, I’ve had over 20 years of training and practice in making plan after plan and having them tested, refined, tested again, criticized, tested again, refined and the final test of all, executed. We in the military should be good at making plans, and not just one plan either. We have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, each of which have branches (contingency plans) and sequels (follow on plans) – all designed to ensure that when we set out to achieve our mission, our execution is robust and effective. The success of our plans in achieving a mission is where the rubber hits the road in the military. It can accelerate or decelerate our careers. It can lead to honor or to shame. Plans are pretty important, and I haven’t restricted my planning only to what I do in the military.
“If I’ve done something wrong, I’m sorry.” “. . . . and I’ll try not to do it again, but I can’t guarantee anything.” “I was wrong to _____, but it was really your fault.” Have you ever heard statements like these, or maybe even said them yourself? Clumsy apologies—if you can even call them apologies. And in marriage a bad apology, or lack of an apology, can begin to cost you the whole relationship.
It was the very last word that my Mother said—“forever.” Every night after her stroke my husband and I would recite with her, as best she could, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, and then end our nightly time with singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We did that for two months until the Lord took her home with Him.
Where's our next assignment? Where do we go next—or do we get out? Ever asked those questions? Of course . . . it's part of being in the military. We seem to routinely assess our current assignments, and then decide what the options are for our next move. Of course filling out a "dream sheet" can bring out negativity in all of us—with the cynical attitude that we will NOT get what we put down as first, or even last, choice!
A friend of mine recently asked me how I keep my mind from wandering to the what-ifs during deployments. Her husband is a helicopter pilot beginning his first deployment. She had heard about a fatal overseas helicopter crash on the news and, though knowing her husband wasn’t involved, she wanted some advice on how to deal with the “It could have been him” or the “What would I do without him” thoughts that infiltrate a military wife’s mind when her husband is deployed.