When is the last time you received an honest-to-goodness letter in the mail? No, I’m not talking about a message printed on cardstock with a ready-made greeting you simply write your name on or a “wish-you-were-here” postcard. I’m talking about an envelope sent in the mail (preferably with a stamp on it), containing personal communication (otherwise known as, “news”), written on paper that is exchanged between two people. In this age of email, text messages and junk mail, I had forgotten the thrill of discovering an actual letter in my mailbox until I found such a rarity waiting for me about a week ago. What made it even more precious was that it was from our oldest grandson, Matt, who left home for Army boot camp two months ago.
Joining the military has been Matt’s dream since he was a little boy. Growing up, Matt was active in Boy Scouts and then in high school, demonstrated his commitment to his dream by signing up for JROTC*. After getting his driver’s license, Matt was out the door most mornings before dawn, picking up other students for JROTC training . . . even as roadblocks loomed to block his dream.
Matt originally wanted to join the Marines, but a “back problem” identified during his physical–Matt has never had back problems–disqualified him. Matt was undeterred, as he filed waiver after waiver with notes from doctors to appeal the decision. We worried as a family that Matt would get angry and depressed when the waivers were denied . . . but we never saw or heard any of that. Instead, we marveled as Matt switched gears and applied to the Army, where he steadfastly continued his fight to serve our country even as he served his fellow students. Less than a week before his high school graduation, Matt’s waiver was was finally granted by the Army.
We are all very proud of Matt, but I will not deny that it was tough the night before he left for Army boot camp. Uncertain about what loomed ahead for Matt–as a grandmother wishing he was leaving for college instead–I came away with a comforting, unexpected treasure of Matt stepping through the awkwardness I bore, with the firm hug of a young man entering manhood.
Since that night our prayers for Matt (and the prayers of many others) have steadied us all. We have been grateful to hear of brief phone conversations, punctuated by wonderful long letters shared that reflect Matt’s doubts and frustrations, his humor and overall enjoyment of training, and most of all, his deep love for home and family.
As I have watched Matt pursue his dream without complaint–except to say in one of his early letters that boot camp is every bit as tough as we’d heard it was— a verse from Scripture has continually played in my mind:
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to Your word.”
What has been at the root of Matt’s determination to continue after his dream without complaint and despite the roadblocks? I have no way to answer that fully, but a comment written in one of his early letters home provides some clues:
“Thank you for raising me right. Most of the people in my company are 18 but they act like they are 12. The thing is here, that if one person messes up, the entire platoon gets “corrective training”–which is basically a lot of really high intensity, high-speed workouts.”
Having been raised, not in a perfect home, but according to the Christ-centered values of loving God and neighbor–all these weeks and months we have been privileged to witness the fruit of that training. After reading Matt’s letter to us, he affirms this:
“I hate it when people won’t do what is right . . . .
I have noticed that ever since I left (home), I have felt closer to God,
I pray a lot more and have been enjoying church more.”
So why do I share this with you? Certainly not to brag about our grandson, even though we are grateful for God’s blessing on him. I share it more to encourage you (as I have been) to follow Matt’s lead:
- To set your sights on pursuing what honors God, as you follow the path laid before you.
- To refuse to complain, give way to depression or fear, as you entrust each day to Him.
- To be honest in whatever challenge you face, as the prayers offered by others provide encouragement along the way.
- To love what is right before God as you love your neighbor as He has loved you:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
5. To remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to encourage servants of Christ:
“You are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry,
written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
II Corinthians 3:3
No matter what the challenge, disappointment or hurt you have experienced, if you love and serve Christ you have not been abandoned. Instead, remember Christ’s charge to the man He healed after being paralyzed for 38 years: “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” (John5:8) Trust Him with every breath you take and let the adventure begin!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:1, 2
All to His Glory!
*Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps— Facilitated in many American high schools with the goal of producing positive character development and leadership skills, JROTC is open to all students–not just those interested in joining the armed services.