Over the past year were involved in a Bible study on MacDill AFB. It has been such a blessing to be back in fellowship with military families and we were blessed to have graduates of three service academies and representatives from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. It is one more thing that affirms our calling to this ministry.
Recently a member of our study, John, shared a story that spoke to our hearts and with his permission I will share it.
John grew up not being the best at anything. His grades were average, his SATs were nothing special, he got in trouble–possibly quite often.
His parents suffered illnesses and the stress lead to divorce. During his senior year he ended up living with a friend’s family. He cut the grass for them, but as his friends went off to college, he felt the awkwardness of knowing he didn’t belong. So he joined the Army; I think it might have been an option given to him by a judge…
And he asked Jesus for one more chance to do things right–this time with a submitted heart and life.
John made it through basic training at the top of his class. He went to schools to learn skills and he consistently ranked at the top of his class. The Army noticed and gave him the opportunity to attend the Military Academy Prep School where he excelled and graduated–at the top of his class. He earned an appointment to West Point. So, John went to West Point and continued to do very well during his first two years.
But always, in the back of his mind, he feared that someone was going to find out that he didn’t belong. He wasn’t an honor student, a star athlete, or class president He told us that during those years, he refused to buy a t-shirt or jacket or baseball cap that said West Point on it. He was always waiting for a call to the Office of the Commandant to tell him that the powers that be had finally found out about him and he needed to leave immediately. So, for his first two years he lived with fear, in spite of the changed life he was living.
Somewhere in his junior year, John relaxed. He realized the story he was telling himself was a lie. He knew he had been fully accepted and from that point on he walked forward in faith.
But for all of those other years, he lived with the image of who he had been at the forefront of his mind. He was afraid that in spite of his grades, his excellent peer grease, and his commitment to doing his best, others would realize that he didn’t belong because of who he was before Jesus granted him his second chance. The source of what he was believing wasn’t the Holy Spirit, but the enemy of our souls.
Today John is a Lt. Colonel in the Army, a graduate of West Point, a former White House Fellow, a graduate of further graduate schools, and now he has left Tampa and is working at the Pentagon. He is also the husband of a godly woman, and a loving father of a beautiful family. He has what he has because he knows who he is cannot be threatened by who he used to be.
I listened to John’s story at Bible study, slightly shocked because I only see who he is now. I’m always surprised to find out that others have fears and failures, painful pasts, and overwhelming obstacles they have overcome.
But in some ways we all share John’s story.
We know who we used to be before Jesus gave us our second chance. Even the “rule-followers” and “water-walkers” among us know the secrets of their own hearts and they are aware of who they might have become.
For the New Year 2013, I need to remember that we were all saved by the God of the second chance, the God who took our past to the cross with Him. We don’t have to claim that other person any longer. We are not who we were or who we might have been, but we are what Jesus has called us to be…redeemed for His glory!