Unfortunately, the version of a “Hail and Farewell” that I had in mind was not quite what I experienced. While I did meet Matt’s company commander, XO, and other platoon leaders, it was not the fun evening I had dreamed up in my head. As the pub quickly filled with big, tough Infantrymen, alcohol began to flow, and conversation began to loosen. Profanities flew, gross topics of conversation were engaged, and a host of Army acronyms jumbled in their slurred speech. The evening seemed to drag on and on. When they announced that the formal portion was about to begin, I groaned inwardly, knowing I would have to suffer through at least 2 more hours. While I did meet a few of the wives who seemed just as uncomfortable as me, I mostly sat in silence trying not to listen to the disgusting talk around me. How in the world did Matt put up with this?During the formal portion, I was shocked to hear commanders mock and lie “all in good fun” as they welcomed the newbies. As Matt’s name was called, I was surprised to hear the booing when the commander announced he was from “that” school. I had mistakenly thought West Point would be well-received…what was I thinking? We both went forward – he to receive a coin, me to receive a rose. When we sat back down, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. Was this really the environment God wanted us in?
The rest of the night continued with a few more welcomes and several goodbyes to prominent people within the battalion. Since I did not know any of them, my eyes glazed over when their speeches began, and I drifted off in thought. I was reminded of a few thoughts from God’s Word. The Bible says we are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-18). I felt, at this Hail and Farewell, that I was as “in the world” as I could be, but not partaking in the abuse of alcohol, indecent language, or condoning of inappropriate humor surely must mean I was not “of the world,” right? In addition, Peter says we are “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). I certainly felt like the people around me were from another planet! Yet God also calls me to love these people – after all, look at the kind of people Jesus hung out with.
I am currently reading a very good book by Lysa Terkeurst called Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl. In the chapter I read today, Lysa reminds her readers that we must be open to “living completely with God wherever He puts us” and have eyes to see the opportunities He gives us (p. 185). As I reflect on my first Hail and Farewell, I am sad that I didn’t see the opportunities God gave me - the people I wrote off as unworthy to be my friend. Had I been open to experiencing God daily, praying for my heart to be in sync with His, I might have been able to share the hope that is within me (1 Peter 3:15). I might have experienced God’s touch and seen His power firsthand. Unfortunately, I was not in this frame of mind, and therefore, did not “find God in an unlikely place” (Lysa Terkeurst, p. 197).
As I continue asking God to refine me and make me more like Him, this is one area in which I am greatly challenged. While I have gotten better at looking for opportunities and asking God to give me eyes to see when He shows up in the unlikeliest of places, there is still much work for me to do. No doubt the military is a mission field, but am I willing to open my eyes to the opportunities God gives?It is a choice – a decision I must make daily. When I’m in the commissary, am I going to notice the mom with four kids struggling to accomplish her weekly shopping? Even if I see her, am I going to do anything to help her?
When I’m at an Organizational Day with families I would not choose to spend time with, am I going to keep to myself and not engage in conversation? Or am I going to seek out that lonely wife who knows no one and is desperate for a friend? Am I going to join the banal conversation about whether the commissary is the better place to shop? And if I join that conversation, am I going to look for ways to turn it towards the things of God?
It’s amazing the ways God is at work daily, even in the mundane. We just need to pray for eyes to see His fingerprints, a heart to melt in compassion for the lost, and hands and feet to follow in obedience.