Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Change of Command

Before I begin this week's post, the winner for last week's giveaway, Called to Serve, is...Lauren!!!  Congratulations!  I will be emailing you shortly to obtain your mailing address.  For those of you who did not win, you can order the book at the Monetti's website or on Amazon

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
~Romans 13:1

The seasons of a military wife’s life often depend on the unit her husband is in and/or the commander to whom he reports. Up until this point in Matt’s career, he had a mixed bag. His current company commander was the best. But like everything else in the military, this too, was not permanent.
In came a new commander – an ROTC graduate, Infantry Captain, recently PCSed from Korea, with a wife who was also in the military, and one little boy. As soon as he assumed command, the entire climate of the company shifted. Striving to make his mark on these soldiers, the CO instituted longer work days and more tedious exercises. Knowing that he would not maintain command through the next deployment, he was eager to obtain significance in some other capacity. However, rather than treating his platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, XO, and 1SGT with respect and dignity, he handled them as he would a buck private. He accused them of disrespect and at times, almost came to physical blows with his subordinates. He gave safety briefs which included stories about his “friend” (actually an autobiographical account) who smoked pot while in ROTC, was caught, and yet given mercy rather than punishment. Another week’s brief included a description of the time he received a DUI as a young LT and was permitted to continue on active duty with minor consequences. My poor husband had to go behind him and remind his soldiers that drinking or taking drugs were not appropriate actions, and if they were caught, would not be so lucky.

Matt frequently came home after 8 or 9 PM as a platoon leader and later as an XO while working for this man. He had to go in on training holidays and numerous weekends. Phone calls were incessant, work never seemed to stay at work, and morale was at an all-time low. The funny thing about the military is your boss doesn’t just control your 9-5; he controls your life!

On more than one occasion, Matt would come home frustrated and overwrought, telling me his CO had accused him of being disrespectful. If you know my husband, you know he is the most respectful person on the planet. Some might even say he’s respectful to a fault. In all his years of West Point and time in the Army, no other boss or soldier had ever accused him of such a thing. The other LTs in the unit reassured Matt that he was respecting their CO, regardless of what their boss claimed was happening.

Things only seemed to get worse when the battalion was given the responsibility to become 1st responders should any disaster strike the U.S. – whether natural, chemical, or otherwise. Despite this being a rebuilding year in between deployments, the soldiers were constantly in training. To prepare families for the mission their servicemembers were assuming, a briefing was held one Thursday night, just before a four-day weekend. When I got home from work, I was tired and not looking forward to attending this boring meeting. Matt called me just before 6 (when it was supposed to start) and asked me to meet him there. He was not going to be able to come home and get me since he was still at work.

When I arrived, I found Matt looking annoyed and beyond tired. It was obvious it had been another rough day. He told me he was still not done with work and would have to go back after the briefing two hours later. When I asked why, he said the CO said the work had to get done before the long weekend.
Right at that moment, his CO walked up and said hello to us. As this was not the first time we met, he asked how I was doing. Little did he realize what a loaded question that was! I responded with a scowl and a curt, “I’ve been better.” He followed up asking if I had had a bad day. I answered that it had gotten bad when my husband informed me that he was going to have to go back to work following this briefing. The CO then said they had some things they had to finish up for the soldiers. He proceeded to ask, “Don’t you care about the soldiers?” To which I replied, “I care about my soldier! He is working entirely too hard and needs a break.” At this point, I don’t remember what happened next. It’s all a blur. All I know is my face got red, and Matt was glaring at me, leading me away from his boss.

We found our seats and Matt quietly but sternly told me that I should not have done that. I slowly began to realize what I had done. I cried and tried to tell Matt that I was only attempting to defend him, to make his CO realize how miserable he was making our lives. Matt would not hear of it. When I reached for his hand, he pulled away. I have never felt so horrible in my entire life, before or since. I apologized and cried harder, begging Matt to forgive me.

Within minutes, his CO found us. He apologized to me. I quickly told him that I was the one who was out of line, that I should not have spoken to him in that manner, and asked his forgiveness. He said it didn’t matter, that he had been thinking about what I said. His solution was to let Matt come in the next day (part of the four-day weekend) to finish the work so he could go home right after the briefing. Great…now Matt was really happy with me.

After the CO left us, I continued crying and telling Matt how sorry I was. The briefing started, and I tried to pull myself together. All I could think about was how upset I had made my husband, how I had really screwed this up. I didn’t know what had come over me. I am not a confrontational person. I have never done anything like that before.
On the way home, Matt was able to explain to me that even though I thought I was helping him, I had actually made things a lot worse. Not only did I disrespect his boss, I disrespected him. The Bible is very clear that husbands are to be respected. Ephesians 5:22, 33b says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…and the wife must respect her husband.” Men need respect in the same way that women need love. Without it, we feel like we can’t breathe. In effect, I had cut off Matt’s air supply.

When we both realized what had happened, I could truly express my sorrow over what I’d done, and Matt could extend his forgiveness to me. And while I’m still learning to respect my husband, I have thankfully not been so blatantly disrespectful since that incident. I learned that respecting my husband meant respecting his boss, even if he didn’t deserve it.
I wish I could say that things got better with Matt’s CO after that. Unfortunately, they did not. A few months later, Matt’s CO told him and the platoon leaders they needed to come in on a Sunday afternoon to prepare for the upcoming week’s field exercises. Although I wasn’t happy about it, I knew better than to speak up. A few hours before going in to the office, Matt got a call from one of the PLs. He asked Matt to consider calling the CO and request the work be pushed to early Monday morning as opposed to Sunday afternoon. The PL explained that he was sick and one of other platoon leaders had family in town. Matt said he would call and ask, thinking the worst the CO would say was no.

I was right next to Matt when he made the call so I could hear the entire conversation. After Matt explained the guys’ reasoning for coming in Monday morning, the CO blew up. He started screaming at Matt, cursing him, asking him what he was thinking to be asking something like that. Matt (amazingly) continued to stay calm and respectful, I might add, answering his questions. The CO continued to blast him, using f-words liberally. He even said he had wanted to go to f-ing church but knew he had work to do today. I didn’t even know you could put such an expletive before the word church! On and on he continued, telling Matt he didn’t deserve to be promoted, that he was going to report this to the Battalion Commander, etc.
I just began to cry. I couldn’t believe someone could be so abusive towards my sweet husband. No matter how kind Matt was, his CO just continued yelling and telling him how disrespectful he was being. I cried harder, begging Matt to just hang up, but he refused. Finally, the CO hung up on him. Matt tried to comfort me (Me! He was the one who just got obliterated over the phone!) He told me this was just how his CO acted. I couldn’t believe it – he had done this before?! Matt said yes, this was what it was like. My eyes widened and my heart broke. How could someone treat Matt that way?

Not much later the CO called back, still viciously angry. He told Matt to call the platoon leaders and tell them they could come in Monday, but it wouldn’t be pretty. Matt did as he was told and called the others, warning them about the kind of reaction he received.
Once he got off the phone, I continued to cry. He told me it was okay, but I told him it was not okay – this was verbal abuse! I begged him to let me call the battalion commander’s wife and complain. He said no, that wasn’t the right thing to do. I submitted but asked if there was anyone else we could talk to about this. Finally, Matt conceded that we could talk to the BN chaplain, whom we liked and trusted. We called him and went over to his house once his kids were in bed.

We shared the situation with him and his wife and listened to their counsel. I was relieved that they helped build Matt back up and reassure him that he was respectful and had done nothing wrong. They applauded him, in fact, for his unwavering obedience to authority, and confirmed that he was an outstanding leader, nothing like the outrageous insults his CO threw at him.
We knew at that point that Matt had just a few more months under this CO. The chaplain encouraged him to either confront him as a brother in Christ (yes, the man who said f-ing church claimed to be a Christian) or just pray for him and wait it out.

We left their house, feeling better that we had told someone. Even though we knew things weren’t going to change, it was just a relief to share the burden. Eventually Matt did confront his CO who amazingly admitted he had an anger problem. However, his behavior did not improve enough.
The reality of this situation was that I didn’t want Matt to suffer. This was not fair. I didn’t see why my husband, a man of upstanding character, who had done nothing wrong throughout this trial, was the one who was being punished. I hated watching him grow insecure and doubting his leadership abilities. There wasn’t anything I could say or do to encourage him. Although I certainly tried, it all seemed to fall on deaf ears. I didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want me to tell anyone. He didn’t want to report the situation himself. We could work the chain-of-command and most likely get this joke of a commander ousted for the things he did. But Matt was adamant – we were to continue to suffer, in silence. I felt helpless and hated it. Every time I tried to build my husband up, he would come home from work defeated and apathetic. I still don’t fully understand why we couldn’t have done more, but I do know that my husband taught me a valuable lesson.

A few months later, as expected, Matt changed jobs and no longer had to report to that CO. It was amazing how much better life got! Matt got his confidence back realizing his commander had caused more damage than he thought.

While the time under that CO was extremely painful, my husband taught me a very important lesson: all authority is established by God, whether good or bad. God is very clear throughout Scripture that we are to obey the authorities God puts over us. My husband did that, but I did not.

I was challenged recently while doing a study by Priscilla Shirer. In one of the day’s homework activities, she asserted that the way we respect earthly authority is a reflection of how well we submit to God. This was extremely convicting for me as I realized that in this command situation, I despised the authority and sought to rail against him when I didn’t like his style; or run and tell on him when I (or someone I love) was hurt by him.

Is this the way I respond to God? Surely not! After all, God is nothing like that commander. God is holy (Lev. 11:44) and just (1 John 1:9), merciful (Neh. 9:31), and compassionate (Neh 9:17). He cannot lie (Heb 6:18), and He is truth itself (John 14:6).

But when God asks me to do something I don’t want to do, how do I respond? If I think something could be done differently, don’t I proudly tell God that my way would be better? When things get uncomfortable or I simply don’t understand, don’t I beg God to tell my why?

However, the truth is – God is God, and I am not. I must submit to Him and any other authority He puts in my life –whether that be a husband, a boss, or a pastor. Although there will be times when that husband, boss, pastor, or other authority figure messes up and treats me unkindly, I am still responsible for my behavior. That’s what Matt taught me.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for them (Matt. 5:44). How can I do that unless I submit and respect those God has placed over me. It is not easy, but the Lord doesn’t always call us to the easy things in life. If He did, He wouldn’t have said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23).

So while there is a part of me that still doesn’t understand why we had to endure all of that, I also realize that my husband is a much better person than I am. And while I submit to him, he will teach me how to be more like Christ. There is a reward for obedience, even when it is difficult.


Anonymous said...

Another great blog! I remember this time and cried my eyes out as well! Glad you were able to glean God's way in this...still hard for this mom! But "greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world" so I just need to let God do His work! As you said so hard to do when we have done nothing wrong! Love you guys! Mom Hicks

Anonymous said...

Powerful message! The Lord is working mightily through you and Matt! I am very proud of you! I love you, Mom

Lauren said...

I received the book today, and you note! Thank you so much taking it to work to start reading it today.