[Just a quick edit, if you didn’t read Part one, you can do so by clicking here ]
So, I was sitting in a chapel at the Army Recruit Training Centre in Kapooka, NSW. I was listening to the Padré retell a story of how Jesus and his disciples went from town to town sharing the good news about God’s Son.
Five years later, I really don’t remember much about his sermon. Chances are I was zoning in and out of consciousness. The only reason I had gone to chapel was to avoid ironing my shirts and polishing brass. The fresh coffee, chocolate and biscuits were a stark contrast to the barracks environment. I do remember a specific part of the Padré’s sermon, it was how Jesus commanded his disciples to take nothing with them except a staff and their sandals (Mark 6:8). He then told us as Australian soldiers we often spend long periods of time away from home with only what we can carry on our backs. The point he made was that the disciples had to have faith that they would be provided for. In the same way, all of us recruits had just committed to the Army. In a manner of speaking we had all committed an act of faith and put our trust in the care and provision of the Australian Defence Force. His challenge to all the people present was “eventually everything in this world will let you down, even the Army, and when that happens, who will have your back?”
The Army was some what of a culture shock for me. Prior to joining I had managed to coexist as two separate people. One was ‘Mr Nice Guy’ who was a casual church goer. I was always helpful and caring. I always put my friends and family first. I was a hard-working young-adult who strived to be a people pleaser. The other personality was one that I kept hidden, an ‘Alter-Ego’ if you like. It’s hard to admit, but ‘Alter-Ego’ fed off ‘Mr Nice Guy’. Although I was oblivious to this at the time, I went to church for the sole reason of filling my need of acceptance. I was nice to everyone around me to convince myself that I was good person. My friends and family came first, until I desired something so much that I would risk my friendships and close family’s unity to grasp for it. In retrospect my own good acts were an extension of my own selfishness.
The Army culture shock laid in the fact that for the first time my life I was being micromanaged. I was forced to be transparent to the people around me. I couldn’t hide behind a façade of pleasantries and have my sinful desires lurking without being caught out. Most of the recruits didn’t show a sense of guilt when they swore, got drunk, were unfaithful to loved ones or put each other down. These qualities I could compare to my Alter-Ego. I had a choice of turning off the ‘Mr Nice Guy’ act and embracing a culture that was completely not befitting of a follower of Christ, or I could have chosen to take hold and accept change in the character that God had given me? To be honest I didn’t know what to do. At the time, both options seemed difficult. Recruit training wasn’t particularly hard for me however I always felt that I didn’t fit in, so I just read my bible and prayed the whole time I was there.
Change didn’t happen overnight. In fact I am still changing now. Looking back, I am so thankful for all the stones that God has laid before me since joining the Army. Individuals like Sharee, who was one of my lecturers during my medic training. She invited me to the local church. Hannah, a prayer partner who showed me that not every girl was for hooking up with. Dan, a bloke who encouraged me to take a path a physical purity and also led me to believe that there is more to life then my own ambitions.
More recently my ‘growth group’, a small group that meets weekly to share in God’s word so that that we can learn and grow by sharing our experiences as Christians living in a secular culture. God has led me down a narrow path. Although I often stray, He is always showing me the way back.
I am thankful daily for my beautiful wife Hailey, a truly gracious and compassionate person. She has taught and continues to teach me more things than I can list here. The main lesson though is how I should treat not only her, but all women. I should treat them as sisters, as co-heirs in Christ.
My mother, who is a walking testimony to the grace of God, is now a school chaplain. The provision she provides for my younger brothers still living at home is leaps and bounds from what I had as a child. Happily remarried, Mum has shown me, (not through her words, but through her actions) that none of us are beyond the reach of Christ’s forgiveness. She taught me that no matter what environment we preside in, who we spend our time with or what our histories say about us, as Christians we are defined by our adoption into Christ’s family. Recently mum can be quoted saying:
“I am not proud nor ignorant of my mistakes, only grateful for grace and mercy, compassion and humbled. I don’t know if I can do better than I am doing, or have ever done, but I am being sanctified (set apart for a sacred use).”
So in closing I want to be totally clear about something. Nothing I have done, or will do, has deserved nor earned the forgiveness that the perfect Creator of the universe continues to show me. I have chosen to take down the façade of ‘Mr Nice Guy’, and let Christ do what He gave up his life doing. That is forgiving, changing and accepting my ‘Alter-Ego’. I now live as a transparent child of the Lord for I have accepted an invitation to be adopted into His family, to be defined by the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Can you claim the same?