Here's one of the most recent questions that came in from our podcast listeners.
Did being a Marine make you grow closer to Christ through suffering in OCS, boot camp and other Marine Corps experiences?
Absolutely. In fact, being under so much stress and pressure in the Marine Corps is what has continually brought me the closest to God! Take for example my boot camp "experience" (if you can call it that) a decade ago. I was a young 18 year-old kid who didn't understand what he got himself into. All I knew is that I signed a paper that gave away the rights to four years of my life and that I had no choice but to push forward (or to go to the brig, but that wasn't really a choice). The entire time that I was in boot camp the old me was being torn down by ruthless drill instructors and a new version of me was being raised up with a totally different mindset. Not only was this so traumatic (I don't mean to be dramatic, it's just such a life-altering event) that it drew me to church every weekend but I also learned an entirely biblical principle from it.
Romans 12:2 in the NLT says "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."
I cannot exaggerate this. My ENTIRE mindset shifted in boot camp. But it didn't come without the painful experience of letting go of old habits and old mindsets in order to fully embrace a new one. This is the type of transformation that we experience from the Holy Spirit when we are having our minds renewed. The habits that take years to build usually never leave in a single moment. Instead, through persistent practice (and A LOT of grace) we are led down a journey of sanctification and we become more and more like Christ.
I'll give you one more.
I had the unique experience of being able to do both enlisted boot camp and Officer Candidate School. And again I found myself growing closer to God and learning yet another important lesson. The greatest struggle of OCS is the lack of time that you have to accomplish the things that need to get done before the next morning. I rarely had time to think, let alone pray. At first this was troublesome to me because I was very action-driven in my faith. Only when I was reading the Bible, praying and doing holy activities did I feel like a "good" Christian. God was able to use that experience to yank that out of my life. In that season I learned that God's love and blessing over my life has nothing to do with what I do for HIM, but rather what Jesus did for ME.
Hebrews 10:21-22 in the NLT says, "and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith."
I learned that it is through faith and not through "holy" activities that I draw near to God. That opened me up to an entire new way of thinking. Instead of trying to make time for God, I learned that my whole life is God time. I started to invite God into the busyness and stresses of life and saw the immediate grace in knowing he was with me through it all! David says it best in Psalms 16:8, "I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me."
I can go on about how much I've learned about what it means to be commissioned by God through my own commission as an officer or how much I've learned about being a good follower from following others appoint over me. Instead, it would suffice to simply say that the military has been the primary vehicle for my spiritual growth.
Now, I want to address a question that you are not asking here, but that I get the a lot:
How is it being in the Marine Corps and being a Christian?
I know most people who ask that are curious about how we reconcile a profession that may require us to take life and partake in war with a religion based around a peaceful and merciful Jesus.
My answer: it's just fine! In fact, I think the American people would be surprised at how many Christians there are in the Marine Corps. A dichotomy doesn't exist between being a Christian and being in the military. Better yet, we get to fully represent how there isn't a separateness to begin with.
What do I mean?
I am a Christian in the Marine Corps. Not a Christian and in the Marine Corps. The "and" denotes the ever-so-common pitfall of creating a secular vs sacred divide that exists between things we consider holy and things that we consider, well, unholy. Choosing the Marine Corps as a profession has been a holy expression in which I get to share the Gospel with men from around the United States, from all different walks of life and display the heart of Jesus. Plus, I get to shoot a lot of guns so that's pretty cool.
What are your thoughts?
Have you ever served? How has being in the military impacted your faith? Are you a Christian and have doubts about joining the military?