“Story from Camp Lejeune”
One day at Camp Lejeune, I was talking with a Marine Captain named John. “My favorite Bible verse is from Romans chapter 8, verse 28,” he told me. “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
I couldn’t agree more. That’s a great Bible verse and it holds a lot of wisdom.
Now John was a Marine whose star was rising. He was successful by every visible standard. He was physically fit. His uniform was impeccable. He was a good leader and an excellent public speaker. His peers spoke highly of him. His wife and son loved him. He was a devoted member of the faith community. He held a position of significance on the base. His military resume’ was exemplary. He really seemed to be ‘punching the ticket’ needed for rapid promotion.
But soon, something went wrong, not in his military career, but in his personal life. His father died. John came to the Chapel and confided in me that he was struggling to find his way. He told me he had never once been to a funeral. He didn’t know what to expect. He would soon be going to his father’s funeral, he might be asked to speak, and he felt lost.
I came alongside John to reassure him, and to let him know he was not alone. In being given the news of his father’s death, John was also being reminded of his own mortality. Indeed, his father’s death was highly significant, and John’s life would never be the same without him. But I knew there was a way forward for him.
John was not alone. God loved him and had a purpose for him. I knew others surrounded him with support and love. As I recall, I reminded John that in his military training and experience, he had faced unknowns before, and had prevailed. I gave him a description of funeral and memorial services to help orient him for what was ahead. And I prayed with him.
Like John, we are sometimes reminded of our own mortality. Bad, disturbing, and life-changing things can and do happen, including to those who have significant success in life and / or who are people of faith. But none of us are alone. We are cared for by those around us. Divine love is present.
There is always a way forward, and we can find a way to prevail. It might mean reaching out to someone who will come alongside us for a little bit in a supportive way.
Your Chaplain, Paul Soderquist