Thursday, 11 April 2019 19:03

Choices

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Some time ago, I found myself in the military. At times, it just seems surreal that I was in the military at all. After all, truthfully, weapons make me a bit nervous. But there I was, in training, in a hot and muggy place called Ft. Benning. At certain times, the training tempo called for night maneuvers, which gave further occasion to feel a bit nervous. Why? There’s no light! Even with moonlight, in the thick of the woods, it’s completely dark. And in the darkness, there are plenty of opportunities to trip up, to tumble down, to fall and get lost. 

But even in these dark times, the light showed through a man named Dwayne. Dwayne was from Wisconsin. He was not in the active military anymore. He chose a path as a part-time warrior, the National Guard. I was able to meet him as part of this training experience.

A quick study of this soldier showed a quiet, reserved man. He rarely spoke and was more comfortable in action. And what he did was quite good. He acted as the light, especially in the pitch black.  His experience was one of a Green Beret, when he was an active duty soldier. These are usually people who are quite intelligent, and, more importantly, never quit. They seek to watch their brother’s back, to protect each other and do what is usually a very difficult mission…and to do it well. 

One evening, we were tired, probably overtired. The mission we were on was continuous. It was a 5-day excursion of activity with little rest. It was the type of experience where, on about the 3rd day, you might become ‘punch-drunk,’ not drunk from alcohol, but a lack of sleep. From this disposition, things just seem funny. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a grace for an overtired body. The overtired body releases feel-good chemicals that just make you laugh. At least that is how I felt, on the 3rd of the 5-day mission. 

But there were certain things that happened on this mission that were not funny. Rather, they were quite serious, especially in the darkness. For one, we got lost. The platoon leader had gotten lost. Unlike Dwayne, who was a bit older and more experienced than the rest of us, the younger platoon leader lacked formation on how to and when to make good decisions. 

In the dark, lost, it was time to recollect, to compose ourselves again and find direction. It was time to make a good decision on how to find ourselves in the darkness. So, the platoon leader acted. He made a decision….the wrong one. 

I remember, like in slow motion, Dwayne, observing the situation, walking outside of his squad’s area, and stepping out in order to relay to the platoon leader an important message before the platoon leader acted. Dwayne said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t send out that man alone.’ Dwayne knew the darkness. He knew that alone, the darkness can consume us and we become even more lost and more prone to despair. 

And Dwayne had courage, too. On this particular mission, he was a squad member, ranking very low in the chain-of-command. For him to approach the platoon leader directly was against military regulations. But, sometimes, the rules have to be broken for the greater good. In this case, the safety of the platoon, lost in the dark, trumped the regulation. Dwayne, fortunately, did the right thing. 

But the platoon leader did not. The platoon leader decided to send out a squad member alone, even after receiving Dwayne’s sage advice to the contrary, to act as reconnaissance for the rest of the platoon. While the platoon leader’s intent was good, i.e. he took a step so we could find our way, his execution, his decision-making was poor. 

As we know from scripture, Jesus never sent out anyone alone to bear the cross. No. He sent them out in ‘twos’ or more. True disciples know, humbly, that they need each other. Only Christ can sacrifice alone, for He is God. For us, while in His image, with an inherent divinity freely given to us by God , we lack the supernatural power to ‘go it’ alone. We need help. 

But the platoon leader overruled Dwayne and we remained lost for quite awhile, probably much longer than necessary. 

Fast forward to the present. In my life, how often am I seeking God’s wisdom, his help? As I read a bit of scripture daily, I realize that the wisdom I need in this life’s journey is right before me. Not only does the Bible serve as a good prayer prompt, but the words are ones to savor. They resonate at a deep level, with my soul. When I give these words time, I receive the wisdom I need, when I need it. 

For instance, let’s say I am wandering. Lord, what am I doing here, what is the purpose of my life? 

Gosh. Big question. 

It is to glorify God, it is to love Him, it is to spend time with Him. That’s it. How do I know this? Because of the words. They are right there, all Jesus’ words, all the Holy Spirit’s inspiration lay directly before me. All I have to do is to open the Bible, turn to any page, and learn about God’s love for me. 

And when I do, I become ‘in order,’ a holy order. This is because the words are first, divine, of God, and, secondly, they are clear.  For instance, the first commandment, to love, to glorify our Lord. What is confusing about these words? To someone striving to become holy, they are welcomed words. God is simplifying my life by providing clear direction for my lost soul. He immediately wants me to focus on something that will put my life into a holy order. Lord, God, thank you! 

The first rule, the first commandment, again, is to LOVE God. That is the highest order not just on a Sunday. But every moment of everyday. This is my life’s purpose: to love Him well. 

Once I am willing to accept and give thanks for this, I can then put everything else in a holy order. The day, any tasks, any relationships, any burden, any joy. Why? It is because I first focus on God; I obey Him. 

And what happens: with Him and with the Blessed Mother as the center of my focus, they start to gently take over each moment as loving parents. 

In practice, glorifying God for me is morning prayer, thanksgiving for the new day. And, without fail, God grants me healing grace in many ways. 

And don’t I need a bit of healing each morning? How often do I wake up on ‘wrong side of the bed?’ I don’t know about you, but these are sometimes my first thoughts of the day: ‘Oh, woe is me, I am too tired, too cranky, my body hurts’ and I am certainly am not grateful. I need to heal. So, it happens, each morning, in prayer, the healing takes place; my spirit lifts with the morning sun.

It is in this everyday morning healing miracle that I am more open to, more ready to surrender myself to what I have come to know as true loving parents. When healed, I’m really in a great mood, thankful and trust the Trinity and Blessed Mother to give me more. They gently give me what I need and take away my trivial wants and things I don’t need. I call this experience holy clarity and heaven on earth, where I am now entering into the heart and mind of God. I believe some of my thoughts are not mine but His. I believe my charity increases as my heart decreases, replaced by His. Prayer is the only place of peace for me and gives me the courage and selflessness I need to do the 2nd commandment well. 

If I get the first commandment right, to love our Lord well, then I can love my wife, my children, my colleagues at work; all neighbors, those that I know and don’t know. 

But, how many of us are reading this article, now, and are experiencing a bit of defiance? After all, many of us, including myself, are in some state of rebellion.  “I don’t want rules and commandments. I am able to do this life on my own. I won’t obey.”

For me, personally, while I have momentary lapses of disobedience, on most days, I look at these rules as gifts. Life can be so confusing without God’s Way. Contrary to God, are things not of God, and things that can distract us from pursuing Him, like wasting time on Facebook, Netflix, and graver abuses like pornography, alcohol or other things.

Or, I can simply tell myself ‘You are a good person, sort of above sin. Why would I need God, anyway? Life is good. I have many things and I’m so busy and important.’ While there might be iotas of truth in my thinking, it’s all a lie and a complete waste of time. For outside of our Lord, what is there? Just a very finite existence and no great purpose. Instead, on my own, I become the empty vessel. This is life without God. Complete emptiness. 

So, I need the gift of God’s rules. Not my own delusional rules, but rules of holiness and sanctity. And doesn’t this make sense? After all, I’m here, on earth, but for a very short while. After this life ends, then what? Eternity. Where will I be for eternity? Don’t I desire to become a saint today so I can become fully present with holy love itself in the hereafter? Or, will I let my pride fool me, like when the serpent fooled Eve? 

Shouldn’t I at least trust God enough, even in my rebellion, to give Him a chance and try to live by His rules, His commandments? This is something to ponder, in prayer, starting now. 

DaneBairdDane Baird has been a witness member of the Home of the Mother for over 3 years. He has two daughters, Jean and Susannah. The newest addition to the family is Halo, wonder-dog! His profession is teaching autistic children and he enjoys acting in several parish and diocesan ministries, as well as supporting the Home of the Mother.

His blog is called "Fathers Floreat!" Floreat is a word he heard on retreat, it is latin for to flourish, to bloom. Men should be blossoming according to God's plan.

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