Saturday, March 3, 2012

Clarity of Purpose, Hidden Lessons

Our youngest is now eighteen, finishing his last few months as a senior in High School. He is launching a life of his own, though I don't think he is fully cognizant of that yet.
When I was a senior in High School, I wanted to get out into the world, start making the indelible mark I knew that I was destined to make. The siren call of that Destiny lured me into making choices I wasn’t too sure of at the time. Looking back, I’m not really sure of them now.
Originally I planned to go into the military. My choices were simple (yet seemed huge). I only needed to select the branch of the military I was joining. Since my Dad was a career Navy man, that choice seemed simple to me. So near the end of my senior year I took a greyhound bus to Detroit for a physical and some tests to enter the Navy.
I was a bit uncomfortable with a busload of strangers; my shyness was almost always an issue in my life (and a major stumbling block to many possible opportunities, but that is an entirely different post). The recruiters roomed me with a guy that was a giant. He was an ebony tower and seemed stern as a hitching post, ducking the top of the doorway to enter the room. We shared some of our reasons for joining, and he was from a hard background, a hard life. When he smiled, it was the sun shining and I didn’t feel quite so alone. Shyness can be a barrier, but just remember that almost everyone is shy to some degree. Start with that common bond and push through the shyness.
I was alone the next day, though. They sat us in a room and gave us a written test. I don’t recall the questions, except for one. There was a picture of a screw (with threads) and wanted to know which way to turn the screw for it to go into a surface.
I did really well on that test, so well that they called me into a small room and asked me if I wanted to go into nuclear submarines. That thought scared me, and I wasn’t prepared for it. That’s another thing I have a hard time handling, surprises. I adamantly stuck to my original plan: I wanted to go into the Navy as a radioman and then into the Seals. My recruiters knew better than I did, of course, but I didn’t know that and like many know-it-all teenagers I didn’t even listen to what they said. No matter how smart you are (or think you are) listen and look for the wisdom in what others say to you.
That wasn’t the hard part, though.
The next day we spent taking a complete physical exam. The questionnaire is what tripped me up and changed my life forever. There was one question: “Have you ever had a heart murmur?” to which I responded “Yes.” This answer put me in a much shorter line that moved at a glacial pace. I was already pretty tired of having a five foot nothing medical corpsman making obscene jokes and bossing me around. After many, many hours and some inconclusive tests on an EKG I finally went to the head guy and asked if I could just withdraw my application. I went home on the bus and made other plans.
I told my Dad I was going to college instead of the military. He was disappointed. A few weeks later I got a letter saying that I did not pass the physical. Dad was nice about it and told me he knew the Surgeon General, and did I want him to get them to fix that for me.
I was late choosing a college, so scholarships were an issue. If I didn’t get a scholarship, I wasn’t going to college. I halfheartedly sent applications to a number of local colleges and received a response from Aquinas College that they would cover most of my costs. I had some money in savings and I could make it work.
So that’s the story of how I ended up going to college instead of the military. Looking back, I regret that I didn’t spend some time in the military, as did each of my three younger brothers. That time might have helped me grow up a little before I headed off to college. Make the hard, life-changing decisions after careful thought and prayer, and don't be hasty to change the choice when faced with adversity.

I received a letter from In Touch Ministries, from Dr. Charles Stanley. He talks about the pressures he was under as a young man. He was failing his first few classes, he didn’t have the money to go to college and wasn’t sure where the money would come from. He talked about praying for God’s will in his life, which is a prayer I’ve prayed often, but not often enough. Human logic was telling him to pack it up and go home, but he felt the need to obey God and God gave him the courage to continue college. His life changed forever, and, through him, untold thousands of people have had their lives changed as well.
Was it God’s will for me to go to college, or was I supposed to stand more firmly and bravely go into the military? I don’t really know. I haven’t made much of a mark on this world, certainly not for the better. Not enough prayer. That’s for sure.
I want God’s will in my life. I never felt His will more strongly, His hand more firmly on me, than when Darling and I went to Africa last year. I pray for that clarity again in my life.
I pray for it in my son’s life as he heads into the college world. I pray for it in the lives of all my children, and in Darling’s life as well.

1 comment:

  1. Wise advice, sir. I was mulling it over at work - especially the praying for direction. I think I'd best start doing that...