“To acknowledge and take up the double obligation to the seen and unseen, in however homely and practical a way, is to enter consciously upon the spiritual life.” Evelyn Underhill
If Jesus came to create something completely new in us. Why is it that so many of us are hungry in our hearts for a closer relationship with Him? How can a person who claims to be a Christian but who is not fully committed to Him know if he’s really a Christian? I share this story (taken from my book In Search of Wisdom), a very practical story, highlighting the necessity of Christian discipline.
While land life in the Caribbean was just as toilsome as mainland the external trappings of organized military were missing. Or as we were fond of saying, “There were no Mickey Mouse maneuvering or administrated duties to satisfy.” Chasing scorpions while filling sandbags, we rebuilt ground bunkers in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. In Panama we spent 10 days in jungle warfare training. And, just as the waters of the Atlantic were brilliant blue and peaceful so the foliage of the jungle was a deep wet glistening green.
Complimenting this mixture of jungle beauty were the ever-present bogs and wetlands. At one point during our jungle training I was rather suddenly and personally introduced to this wetland beauty. Sitting in the belly of a helicopter, exhausted, hungry, dirty and thoroughly soaked, we were headed towards our next maneuver. We had about 15 to 20 minutes before the drop. Just enough time to catch a quick nap. When I realized that I had one pair of clean dry socks left in my pack.
Acting immediately, I removed my boots then the wet socks giving my feet a much-needed reprieve. It is amazing how cherished a pair of dry socks can become. Just as I finished lacing my boots, enjoying the benefits of my newly acquired socks, the helicopter was positioning us for the jump. As platoon radioman I would be the first to go followed by Lieutenant O’Brian. While the helicopter hovered above the ground, the leafy grass bend over by the power of the blades, I picked my spot and jumped. Preparing to roll into position once I landed.
I instead, found myself slowly sinking, ending at mid-chest, in the quagmire of a swamp, a huge swamp. Watching as the Lieutenant and the entire squad flew out of sight. As a result of my military training my first though was - this is my last pair of clean - dry - warm socks. Following training in Panama, I vowed that once I got back to the states. No matter how long my workday was, no matter how tired or dirty I got. As long as I could go home at the end of the day, take a warm bath and sleep in a clean bed, I would never complain again.
Over the years, while teaching, I often use this event to illustrate the necessity of Christian discipline. “Imagine walking onto the battlefield, I said, “having never trained a day in your life.” I would then tell the story of jumping out of the back of a helicopter only to find myself up to my chest in a swamp with the helicopter and the entire squad flying away. Indicating that, “No matter how hard I tried if it were not for my training, I would have never made it out on my own.”
My point was and continues to be this, forming the soul through disciplines is not a matter of trying harder; it is a matter of training wisely. Trying hard can only accomplish so much. If you are serious about becoming like Jesus, you must enter into a life of training.
There is a remarkable similarity and continuity between my military training and the discipline it takes to live an effective Christian life. Regretfully, to many soldiers lay wounded on the field of battle simply because they neglect the disciplines. To truly follow Jesus Christ, we must consider the necessity of spiritual disciplines. To maintain a life of spiritual discipline one must surrender themselves and pick up their cross. Knowing that the cost will always be greater than our ability to measure it we willing trust Him as He leads us, through prayer, scripture reading, and meditation on an exciting journey into the inner life.
Till we can sit down together I remain faithfully yours,
Glenn T. Horne