In 1975 I was at Air Force basic training in Texas. On the first day there a bunch of young guys walked into a cold colorless building as individuals and walked out quite different. Since it was the 70’s and hair was either long or big, it was the first thing to go. Next that same bunch of guys, all bald, stripped out of our Levis and T-shirts and after being asked only one question, boxers or briefs, had our uniforms handed to us. It seemed no time at all until we all stepped out into the sunlight, a bunch of goofy bald guys in baggy green uniforms.
For the purposes of the military, removing our individuality and replacing it with camaraderie and team building proves quite successful. And I have to say that in the end I probably learned more about who I really was through that exercise than I realized. I learned to become mature and self confident by first becoming a bald guy in a baggy uniform who looked just like everyone else around me.
As I was looking back at how God has worked on me in the last few years, I saw some striking similarities in that system and in how God works. In basic training I had no say in entering into that building, but with God I did. I think I must have circled the entrance a hundred times before entering because God did not force me inside. No, He invited me. Now once inside things were actually quite similar. I had to strip down spiritually and remove the selfish things that I thought made me who I was. I had to stand before my Father and show Him all of my brokenness, my filth, my weaknesses, all of my failures and faults. The military term ‘standing tall before the man’ fits here. Once again I was going to have to lose some things to find what I really was and more importantly, why I was.
Only this time as I stepped out into the sunlight, I started seeing the real me, the one that was seeking out my new purpose in life. And this time, rather than doing so because I was ordered to, I was being invited, and eventually challenged.
Basic training was a great way to make young men from different backgrounds learn to fit and work together for a greater good, and it works. It works because at a younger age we need to be made aware of our place in a bigger picture and to accept the responsibility of it. Team building through camaraderie is wonderful and absolutely has its place in life but sometimes we need to get a bit more personal when it comes to our relationship with the Father.
1975 was a lifetime ago, I was younger and needed different things, but even now I see that my training is ongoing. God is still showing me things, still loving me through the process of becoming the man He intended me to be from the beginning. In some ways I’m still a goofy bald guy in a baggy green uniform, but in other ways I’m beginning to see myself as the man that God had planned for me.
Jesus came not to save countries and governments but rather individual hearts. He came. He taught. He died and was resurrected so that we might understand that, even though we are parts in the bigger picture, He loves us in a personal way. He loves us as the individuals that His Father and ours created us as.