Jesus Won’t Rescue Us from Boot Camp

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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In Marine Corps boot camp, I was yelled off the bus, yelled into formation, yelled into marching. My uniform and equipment were thrown at me—literally—clothing, shoes, boots, pack, rifle. You DID NOT want to drop the rifle. I was shoved, cursed, yelled at, had a rifle slammed into my ear. I was kicked in the ribs to encourage more pushups than I thought possible, my feet were stamped to remind me which was the left one, and I was pushed further than I had ever been pushed before, further than I thought I could go. I had gotten myself into something I couldn't get out of, and Mom and Dad couldn't help.

John the Baptizer was in the Roman equivalent of Marine Corps boot camp where he had no rights and little hope of surviving. John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah, meaning "Why haven't you rescued me from the villain in the palace?"

John was Jesus' cousin. John had announced Jesus' coming. He prepared the audience for Jesus. He sent Jesus some of his first disciples. He baptized Jesus. If anyone owed John a favor, Jesus did. Jesus told John's disciples to report what he was doing in the world—the lame made to walk, the blind to see. Jesus could just as easily have said, "I'm saving these people, but I'm not going to save you, John. Believe in me because of what I am doing in the world, not because of what I do for you."

I had come to believe that God was my personal genie, but Jesus didn't rescue me from boot camp. Jesus expected me to do what the Marines told me to do and to do it the way the Marines told me to do it. That was hard because I was eighteen and had just acquired the right to do things my way. The first thing I had to square away was attitude, even when doing the work I hated most: mess duty. I didn't enlist to scrub pots and pans. Couldn't everyone see that I was better than that? That I deserved an heroic assignment with real consequences like John the Baptist had?

When I played high school football, my coach wouldn't give me a chance to star under the bright lights until I learned to block and tackle. I never did learn, and I never became a star player. But when scrubbing pots and pans, I did learn. I needed to show enthusiasm and eagerness to be the best I could be. So I did. It helped to remember always that I was Jesus' representative in that place.

I still haven't been invited to the head table. I still haven't become a football star. My days with the Marines did not earn me a Congressional Medal of Honor. But I learned to remember the hope of the psalmist, "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me." That's enough.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • Who is your favorite Bible character and why?
  • Do you expect to be extricated from difficult or unhappy work circumstances or do you try to represent Jesus whatever your condition and wherever you are?
  • What can you do to serve God where you are as long as you are there?
  • For more about persevering under difficult situations, read Al Hsu's "Praying through Dark Times" and Gordon Atkinson's "God Doesn't Reward Bloody Knuckles."
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