Life has a way of handing us the unexpected. For all of our plans and preconceived ideas of how life should play out, there always seems to be a surprise, a turn in the road, or an unexpected diversion from the original plan. I have come to appreciate the unexpected, embrace them, and, most importantly, learn from them.
I served in the U.S. Army from 2006-2010. While many of my memories from this time are pleasant, I did walk down some dark, painful roads – physically and spiritually. You see, I had come into the Army a bitter and cold young man…
I grew up as a preacher’s kid. Over the years, I had seen and heard things from church people that both shocked and angered me. In fact, one particular church situation really rocked my world and devastated me in big ways. So, by the time I was ready to join the Army, as far as I was concerned, I was all together done with church and God, and the Army provided me the perfect escape plan from both…or so I thought.
During my first two years in the Army, I had shed all remnants of my faith and Christian beliefs. I didn’t go to church, read my Bible, and I never talked to anyone about religion or faith. The Army made it easy for me to do this.
There were so many opportunities and distractions in the Army. There were promotions to get, awards to be earned, and respect to be gained. I quickly replaced the one true God with my new set of “gods” – promotion, awards, and respect.
Through hard work, I was able to get all three of these things. I was promoted quickly (eventually I attained Sergeant in three years’ time), received awards for excellence/service, and I had earned the respect of my fellow soldiers. But with all I had attained, my heart was still cold, and I was still very angry.
I was deep into myself, my interests, and my pursuits, when I received orders in the summer of 2008 to go to Iraq for a tour of duty. I was super excited! I had trained for this moment and was so ready to go prove myself as a soldier and as a man. Iraq was going to be a great experience for me, or so I had planned. What I wasn’t planning on was the unexpected…
Two weeks after I arrived in Iraq, one of our men was killed when his vehicle rolled over during a firefight in Mosul, Iraq. I remember the day well and was completely devastated when we got the news. You see, all soldiers train to bring death to bad guys, we don’t train to die ourselves.
The solider who died was young. He had a wife and five kids. In my moment of pain and anger, my thoughts went to God. For years God was the farthest thing from my mind, but now I wanted answers. I gave an angry prayer to God as I questioned His goodness and His ability to control life’s circumstances. I was hurt, angry, and sad beyond words.
God answered that very angry prayer about a week or so later when my father sent me a care package with a CD from Faith Baptist Bible College in it. I listened to that CD and encountered the song, “Bow the Knee.” In that song, I heard these words, “And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan, in the presence of the King, bow the knee.” God broke my heart right then and there. I was driven to my knees in prayer, and with tears streaming down my face, I asked God to forgive me and use me for His service. This too was unexpected. I hadn’t expected God to humble me and forgive me, but God did…
Fast forward to the present, I am amazed to see how God used that time in my life to bring me to the place that I’m at right now. I now realize that people can hurt me, but God is always good. I now realize that my plans may change, but with God there are no accidents. And I now realize that in this life pain is a reality, but with God that pain has a purpose. I now know that no matter what life looks like or feels like, God is in control. With God I can always expect His unexpected grace to meet my every need.