When I was nineteen I signed into the Army Reserves. I was an 88 Mike in the 660th Transportation Company in Cadiz, Ohio. An 88M is a Motor Transport Operator, responsible for transporting personnel and cargo. Despite my recruiter's promises of being qualified for endless amounts of jobs, I in fact only qualified for like three-a cook, a motor transport operator, and one other that must have been even worse because I don't even remember it. After spending a day at the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Pittsburgh, I sat across the table from the job placement guy trying to look casual as I decided my destiny. I felt like the daughter in Father of The Bride when she tells her dad she's getting married. Like, I'm pretty sure I reverted back to being about four years old. I wanted to ask the guy in my squeaky little girl voice if he was sure there weren't more things I could do...who let me come here by myself anyway...are you sure I'm even old enough for this? So, without much thought (or options) I chose to be a transporter. Whatever that meant.
Since I was in fall semester in college at the time I signed in I was put on the delayed entry program (DEP). I immediately began reporting for drills one weekend a month, but was not scheduled to go to Basic Training until the following summer. My first weekend at drills I called my dad in a panic because while I was trying to drive to Cadiz, OH, I suddenly drove under a sign that read "Welcome to West Virginia." West Virginia? How the heck am I supposed to drive a hummer in Iraq if I can't even drive from Pennsylvania to Ohio?! My dad looked at the map and assured me I was on track, I just needed to pass through West Virginia a smidge to reach my destination. Reeee-lief. When I arrived at the 660th Transportation Company, I quickly parked my (dad's) truck, took a deep breath, and headed in the building. I knew not where I was going once inside, nor what I was supposed to do. I was going through some introductions to the place and to people in my unit when a little situation arose. The captain of our company had arrived and he wanted to know who had parked their Ford F150 in his parking space? Oops. Let me just move that out of your way...sir. I didn't stay there for very long that first time. Me, and a couple other new guys on the DEP were shipped off to Toledo, OH for an intense training weekend. To this day I'm not sure what it was all about. My understanding was it was a weekend preview of Basics for those who had not yet completed their training, and also a refresher course for those who had. All I know is that I got yelled at a LOT, I earned the nickname "track star" (which was not a good thing despite how it sounds) and I had to do push ups for several other girls in my platoon who weren't able to do their own. At the end of the weekend when the drill sergeant asked who had fun, I was the only one who didn't raise my hand. While some began to talk to me about Officer Training School because of my physical strength, I began to wonder what in the world I had done signing into the military at all. But, I continued to report for drills each month. I trained hard physically. Learned to disassemble and reassemble guns. Rode around in Humvees. And made friends. As my date for Basics got closer, I felt more confident that everything would be OK.
Little did I know that I would never complete my training. Long story short, a series of events occurred in my life at the time I was supposed to be leaving for Basics that left me unable to go. I struggled with what I should do. And I could not make contact with my recruiter who I later found out literally was in Disney Land at the time on vacation. I, thankfully, happened to be dating this cute guy who was in law school (wink, wink) who was able to help me navigate my way through contacting the right people. In the end, I was granted an uncharacterized discharge from the Army Reserves. I was told it was neither good nor bad and that I could re-enlist in the future if desired. I never did. Sometimes when we are in church and "those that have served in the military" are asked to stand up and be honored, I jokingly ask my husband if he thinks I should stand up. In reality, I will never stand up because I did nothing to "serve" my country in the military and I more closely had a failure to report for duty. Though I think I would have made a good soldier, I don't think I was meant to have that as part of my life. I'm thankful for the experience, the laughs, and I have a genuine appreciation for those who do serve in our military.
Why do I share this with you? Well, I often reflect back on that experience. And I think of how I could relate my life as a Christ-follower as a failure to report for duty as well. I have realized that I have reduced being a Christian to gaining a ticket to heaven. I have been satisfied with praying my little salvation prayer and then sucking up all kinds of blessings for myself. I have set standards for being a "mature" Christian that include church attendance, giving financially, serving on Sunday mornings, joining a small group. Really what I have done is neglected my part to serve in the army of God, while reducing the Christian walk to something that is self-serving, boring, and more often than not just fulfilling an obligation or requirement. I have sung all kinds of songs on Sunday mornings about God as Healer, yet never once responded to his call to lay hands on the sick so that they would recover. I have spent a lot of time surrounding myself with other Christians because it is safe and comfortable and hardly any time at all with the lost, even though I claim to follow Jesus who gave his life for lost people. I have judged people whose lives look different than mine, instead of running to them with the good news of the gospel that their lives can be different. I have claimed that I am free in Christ, yet held offense against others who have wronged me...how can a truly free person be offended? I have quoted feel-good scriptures about mercy triumphing over judgement, and yet I get annoyed at the cashier who is taking a ridiculous amount of time to ring up my groceries. I have used the sovereignty of God as an excuse not to engage in the battle against evil and not to live victoriously. Really what I have done is given my heart to God, but not my life.
But I am done with that. It is true that a person's life will reflect what they believe about God. Not just life in the public eye, but life when no one is looking or listening. The fruit will not lie. You can claim to be an apple tree all you want, but if you aren't producing apples you've got an identity problem! I have decided that I'm selling out. I am believing Jesus when he says he only does what the Father tells him to do and that he is a perfect representation of the Father. And so I am laying down my life and I am going to follow Jesus. I'm going to do what he did. I am going to lay hands on the sick and pray so that the love of God will wreck their lives. I am going to come out of my bubble of Christians and get messy loving the lost. I am going to walk in the freedom of knowing who I am, that I am a daughter of the Most High God, and there just isn't anything anyone can do to offend me (if God is for me, who really can be against me?). I am going to show mercy every time I could lay down judgement...instead of a complaint I will offer an encouraging word, instead of ripping off a bad waitress, I'll tip double the bill. I am going to use the finished work of Christ as my victory over evil.
At the end of my life I don't want to be there before my Creator, unable to stand up as a true soldier. I want to be there knowing I did everything I could for the sake of love. No more failing to report. This soldier is going active duty!