I plan on getting up at 4 a.m. tomorrow to drive to Fort Jackson, South Carolina to witness graduation from Basic Military Training for a lot of people I don’t know and for one person I do know. Allen Reardon, a young man from Snow Hill Church is on track to graduate tomorrow. It has been a hot summer in South Carolina, and I hear the Basic Military Training Instructors still are not friendly.
I was thinking this morning as I was heading out the drive of Allen and his graduation. It reminded me of my time in the “service.” I spent 20 years in the United Stated Air Force. Many people throw the word “service” around. Some even describe their relationship with the Lord Jesus in that manner. Let’s explore this concept for just a moment.
Allen was not drafted into the Army. I know lots of people that were. I was not drafted into the Air Force. I know lots of people that were. I believe there are differences between those that are drafted and those that volunteer as well as similarities. Let me explain. One of my cousins was drafted during World War II. He piloted a plane over Germany. He was shot down and killed. His tombstone is in Smithfield, NC. He wrote a letter to his mother describing the two of them seated in the parlor and how he gazed upon her with love in his heart. He stated in the letter that she found after his death, that he was proud of her, loved her, and felt that he would never look upon her in this world again, as he believed he would never step foot back on American soil. He was drafted and yet accepted his responsibility with honor, dignity, and love.
Another person, I was told, had been drafted and went for in-processing. He did not want to leave home or serve so he managed to fail the hearing test. He told me as he was leaving the room after failing the test, the doctor dropped a metal pan on the hard surfaced floor insuring it would make a loud crashing noise. The draftee heard the crashing sound, but maintained his composure and did not look back. He walked away pretending to not hear.
As people of faith, we have different ideas of what it means to serve the Lord. God does not force us to serve Him. He calls us. He allows us the freedom to serve or not serve. I find it unsettling when I hear people speaking of their service to the Lord as though it is a burden. For many, it’s like serving a life sentence in prison. They can’t wait until their time is up and they can go back to doing what they were doing before.
While in the Air Force I was often asked, “Do you enjoy what you are doing?” My response very often was, “Most days I do, but some days are better than others.” Service to and for the Lord should not be a burden, it should bring joy and fulfillment and ultimate happiness. I am glad when it’s time to participate in worship and to pray. I am happy when I see God’s power and might at work.
I envision seeing many smiles tomorrow at graduation at Fort Jackson. Young men and women from all over our nation have worked with intensity and purpose over the last weeks to accomplish new goals, sharpen their skill set and to position themselves for future advancement. There will be much happiness tomorrow. There will be sadness, too. There will be many want-to-be soldiers that washed out or quit during basic training and they had to leave the Army. The ones that will graduate will do so because in their hearts they believed they could. Likewise, we can serve the Lord with gladness because we believe in our hearts that God’s power, majesty, and forgiving love will endure forever!