Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Call of the Wild

As many already known Christina and I have acknowledged the calling as a Chaplain in the army. Most have said that they aren't at all surprised, which to be honest neither are we. I think initially the hardest thing for me to overcome was accepting the fact that I was called into a pastorate, which I have always fought based on an image I had forged in my mind of a traditional "pulpit ministry".
Growing up as a pastors child I was always being told I was called to preach/pastor and I would always reply that they were off base because I was a rough and tumble mountain man not cut out for this soft pastoring thing that my father did so well. Don't get me wrong my dad is a mans man, in fact I would rather have him in a foxhole with me then just about anyone else. That might be because I know he is connected to God and my mom would have more angels around us then she ever prayed up for me during my two tours. But he is one of those that is just cut out for the cloth so to speak and I look better as an enforcer. This knowledge is what led me to the army in the first place, while there I met Chaplain Egert who was so much like my dad it amazed me.
I can honestly say that when we met the Egerts being in the ministry couldn't have been more distant from both of us. We had been through so much hurt at that point from "Christians" that I had swore off anything church related. Chrissy and I to this day laugh about the whole lunch with them that got me back teaching drama at church, renewed us to Godly Christians and eventually led us to the decision that we were called into the ministry, not yet as chaplains but as something in the church. Chet and Rhoda along with their daughters became fast friends to us and on every move we ended up running into them or they us and always caught right back up. During our tour of Italy he had a Chaplain recruiter come to Vicenza and introduced us to the whole idea in our living room along with John McDougall and his soon to be wife. Even so we just didn't know if it would ever be something we wanted to do. John and Bree did end up being called and I suppose that the ember was already embedded in us.
Getting out of the army was so hard on both of us because we had always felt that we were lifers. Often you hear of people who can't survive on the outside, Chrissy and I are not those people, we just like the Camaraderie that the army has, even among the wives. God in his wisdom didn't reveal to us anything further than get out and go to school. So after an eight year career we started over. A lot happened in the first few months after getting out, some came close to destroying the faith we had in God.
Soon after arriving at Lee, the promised job dissolved with the resignation of the head of campus safety. Having no other options Chrissy looked for work and was turned down constantly until, just in time, she got a waitressing job at Outback. Night after night the back breaking work wore her down but she stuck with it because it was all we had. During this time her father was diagnosed with cancer, which God had revealed to us meant her father was being called home. Every day off she had we headed south to be with him and eventually about 3 months after his diagnosis, he died at the end of June. During one of our visits, which turned out to be his last really good strong week, he prayed over Chrissy and I and passed down the blessing of family leadership and ministry. He was an ordained minister so this was really a strong time for us because you almost don't feel worthy to receive that mantle. Talking to him, he knew we were called to the chaplaincy and in fact we were getting that feeling that it was coming, we just hadn't quite accepted it yet. On the drive back home we looked at each other and wondered if God was already revealing another step to us.
The August after his death I started back to Lee ofter being out of school for 1o years. I look back now in disbelief as I see Gods hand at work the whole time. At the beginning of that semester I was a sophomore with a 1.4 gpa. After the first semester I was a junior with a 2.2. Each semester the gpa rises and so does my belief that God has something in store just around the corner. In pursuing the next level of education I thought surely God wanted me to get a masters in something like movie making or production since my BA is telecommunications with a church media emphasis. As I was perusing the Regent website I saw a Mdiv with a chaplaincy emphasis, then I saw a discounted tuition for those in the Chaplains Candidate Program. Understand this none of our decisions were made based on that find, it was just interesting that while looking for a degree tract to follow in the graduate program a chaplaincy degree would show up.
At this point Chrissy and I felt 99.9% positive that we were being pulled that way.
I called Chaplain Egert a few nights later and asked him how we should proceed. Before I knew it I had emails rolling in from people he had put me in contact with. We have prayed God please open and close doors for us so that we will know that this is your will. So far we haven't walked through a single door, just a blown away hole where once there was a door but God removed it so there was no doubt which way we needed to go. I called the Church of God(Cleveland, TN) Chaplains Commission and set up a meeting with Chaplain McNabb who heads the program. What a wonderful meeting it was for us as he confirmed things we had always been feeling. At one point I told him that I had never felt a calling to a "traditional pulpit ministry" and he immediately replied I know what you are trying to say and you are what the chaplaincy needs because you are called to pastor soldiers. Before we knew it Chrissy and I were being escorted around the seminary, and we felt that we were in the right place.
So there is where we stand on this calling into the pastorate. We have been told that the hardest thing for us will be the change from enlisted to officer, they may be right. But I think just admitting a calling into the pastorate was the hardest for me.