Tyler’s recruiter spent some time with us last night explaining what’s going to happen for the next 13 weeks. I knew something was up when my brother (former Marine) and nephew (lifer Marine) told me, in separate conversations, Tyler will come back a changed man. Sergeant Keifer to us: This isn’t the boy scouts. Tyler will come back a changed man. My thought: I didn’t expect the Boy Scouts, but that part about changed? What if I like him the way he is right now?. A kid whose laundry never has an even number of socks, whose diet consists of Taco Bell and Mountain Dew, a guy with phantom characteristics – now you see him, but mostly you don’t. I wonder what this new guy is going to be like. Sunday evening at 7:00 – that’s it then; the beginning of a journey; the first steps of a life walk; the forming of an adult; an act of faith.
What do we know about faith? Here’s what the message translation says about it in Hebrews 11:1 “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” That verse sets the stage for a life lived by faith. How many times in a week or a day do we laughingly admit our crystal ball is hazy or our magic wand is broken? We can’t foresee the future, but we can commit to holding fast to that firm foundation of faith. Psalm 37:23 tells us “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.” For 13 weeks the Marine Corp has a grid of challenge and opportunity. The sergeant pulled out a chart with a picture representing each day for 13 weeks. There were no pictures of baseball, pizza, video games, or beach volleyball. At the very end of each week though was the image of a Marine fully outfitted in camouflage, kneeling with his head bowed. Marines have 4 hours available every Sunday to renew their fading strength. There are services for all faiths – but it encourages me that ‘religious’ services are a priority on the Lord’s day. Remember what it says in Isaiah 40: 31 “they who put their hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Sundays are the days for mail call too. In the ‘How to support your Marine’ packet, we are told to send mail …. every day! Your recruit needs positive messages, unending support, and uplifting letters from home. From week 3 to week 6 or maybe longer your recruit is going to wonder why they joined the Marines. They are going to wish they had never done this. They are not on a Boy Scout campout, this is grueling, devastating, gut wrenching training. It’s how they learn to work together in perfect synchronization as a military squad. I get that. I will be writing because I want to remind him that he can do this, he is on a faith journey as well as a strength journey. I think we forget that the road we travel is never straight and level. It’s straight up, twisted left, twisted right, with a cascading descent, before the smooth ride that’s marginal at best before the upward climb begins its repeat performance. This is why I am already on my knees praying for Tyler and every Marine in training. I am praying for protection in all its many tentacles of need: physical, mental, spiritual Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” And I pray that Tyler has this foundation for his journey. Proverbs 4:11 “I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” Guard is well – for this is your life.”