Jimmy, a friend of the family, came home on leave from S. Korea. It had been almost a year since we had seen this teenager leave for boot camp. Honestly, I wondered if he would make it through the rigors. He’s a great kid, don’t get me wrong, he just had some growing up to do, like most nineteen year olds. But in he walked…no slouching, looking us straight in the eye, willing to talk about life and sharing the culture shock of living in another part of the world.
The family surrounded him to hear all about his life changing experiences. I was struck with this young man sitting across from me, sharing openly about his triumphs and struggles since he left home. I didn’t want to embarrass him, but I couldn’t get over the change. I finally blurted out, “Jim, you’re a man…you’re a grown man.”
He snickered a bit and looked down at his hands. I went on, “It’s great to see how much you’ve grown: your manner, your confidence, your outlook on life. Did you ever think as a kid you would be a chaplain’s assistant in the U.S. Army? Did you know this is what you’d be when you grew up?”
It didn’t take him a minute before he began to speak. “You know,” he said, “it hit me in boot camp, sprawled out in a ditch during a training maneuver. As a kid I would have never chosen to do this — this is what men do. I’m not a kid anymore. ”
The struggles, the trials, the rigors of boot camp grew this boy up into a man. He remembered the moment he understood he wasn’t a kid anymore. He had grown. He was training for the job only a man could do.
When I’m sharing with others about this life in the flesh after salvation — this sanctifying process that begins with justification (salvation) and ends with our glorification (seeing God) — I often say it’s like boot camp. We are in training. We must experience the struggles, the trials, and the rigors of boot camp to grow up into the people of God He intends for us to be.
It’s not easy. It’s not all roses once we come to Christ. We are in this state of growth and it will not end until He says we’re ready for another life. As He determines we must persevere in the flesh, walking by the Spirit until we grow up in our salvation. We are in training for life, real life.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-4
Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him. ~2Timothy 2:3-4
Once we’ve made it through boot camp, won’t it be great to hear Him say, “Well done! You’ve grown up nicely.”