For the last week I and a number of traveling companions have been working our way around the globe to the place we will call home until Uncle Sam tells us we can go back to Alaska. Our trip has been tiring, boring, frustrating, and any number of other "ing's". But the time and effort it took was worth it when we reached our final destination earlier today. The "coolness" is not to be had in the completion of an arduous trek or in the ultimate destination. Rather, it is in the arrival itself.
Since my early days as a chaplain in an infantry battalion I have always viewed the job of a military chaplain as somewhat analogous to that of the Old Testament prophet because when I stand among my soldiers and peers I represent something none of them do and I bring a presence to the table that no one else does. Not because I'm anything special nor have any particular skills that are unique to me. However, I truly believe God wants me here, doing what I do. The result is that I tend to operate with a confidence that can border on arrogance knowing that even when I'm entirely confused about something, God has His hands deep in my confusion and will make something great out of something not so great.
I don't necessarily act like some kind of prophet wannabe. However, I take my responsibility to be the prophetic voice of God among my soldiers very seriously. And here is where the extreme coolness of today's arrival on our FOB comes into play. It happened like this…
As we were preparing to get onto the airplane for the last leg of our little global jaunt we lined up seemingly at random and walked single file out to a waiting bus where we packed in, seemingly at random. We waited a bit and then were escorted onto the plane and wedged into some very tight quarters which made breathing a bit difficult. All this seemingly at random. Then, our baggage was loaded in behind us on large pallets, the back of our C-130 closed up and we were airborne at last. Sometime later we landed without incident and waited for the clearance to deplane. The pallets containing our bags were taken off, the ramp was lowered all the way and the loadmaster signaled for us to get off his plane. Here's where it gets great. Because of the random location I just happened to sit in, I was the first guy off the first aircraft carrying our entire brigade into battle. It hit me like a ton a bricks that I was doing what the priests did when the children of Israel marched around Jericho. I, the lowly often overlooked chaplain, was wearing the first boot to hit the ground and like my predecessors I began to pray. I prayed for the success of our mission. I prayed for the safety of my soldiers. I prayed for their hearts, their minds, their spirits, and their bodies. I prayed that they would be a better shot and have faster reaction times than any that would desire a good fight. I prayed that we would be able to win the hearts and minds of the local people. I prayed that we would all get home next year. I prayed that God would bless them.
Call it coincidence. Call it providence. I just think God's control of things is amazingly cool.