The drive that morning was quiet. We barely spoke. I was ready to go, but I know it was hard for others to see it happen. After hours at the airport and two flight delays I finally landed in St. Louis. The bus ride was quiet and it was after midnight when we arrived. As we pulled through the massive gates in the dark hours of the night, the rain began pouring down and I felt loneliness more profound than ever before. Hours of paperwork ensued, followed by massive amounts of bloodwork and multiple sets of vaccinations -given simultaneously, three at a time in each arm. Weak from the loss of blood and weary from lack of sleep, I felt a roaring in my ears and knew I was going down. My last thoughts were of the room darkening and the walls closing in on me. Smelling salts quickly brought me back to reality as I was pushed forward in the line.
Each of us looked to the other for some sort of comfort. There was a silence but we each knew what the other felt. It was like a never-ending day relived over and over. My head ached, my heart missed home and I began doubting what I had done. After days of this, we were herded into huge, un-air-conditioned, cattle trucks. The temperature outside was well over 100 degrees, soinside it felt double that. We were exhausted and sweating. Every person carried two bags each weighing well over 25 pounds which felt double the weight considering our present fatigue. As the truck slowed to a stop he yelled, “You better run like the hounds of hades are after you.” As the doors of the truck opened, I dodged him as he grabbed another man and threw him out to the ground. I watched the guy hit the pavement, but was instructed to keep moving. I followed those in front of me and ran to the open area—it was chaos. I thought to myself, “What have I done?” A home-sickness like none I had ever known washed over me. “I could sense it on the faces of the others as well.” Each tried to swallow the lump in their throat and blink back the tears from their eyes. Showing weakness would only make it worse.
Weeks and months of brutal training and breaking down to build up finally passed. But those first few weeks were the hardest. What I learned however, was the men who I trained with would be life-long friends. Extreme duress, exhaustive days and nights of living together, working together, and training together had developed an unbreakable camaraderie. We were young boys when we arrived, but we left as soldiers.
(I wrote this piece from the letters and conversations I had with a young man who is in the Army-and it is with his permission I use it).
I couldn’t help but think how as parents we strive to protect our children. We don’t ever want to see them go through heartache or hurt. As a mother, the thought of my child hurting (no matter his or her age) makes me feel awful.
In the hurt however, strength is born and character is built. It is often in these times that God will mature and strengthen our children. As a parent, one of the most important things I can do is prepare my child for the battle.
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV) says, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Bonds of intimacy can be forged in many ways. However, as the military knows very well, men and women who go through some sort of traumatic or extremely stressful experience together develop relationships much deeper than those of others who don’t experience such situations. It is their job to prepare the men and women for possible war and/or battle situations.
Often trials work the same way in our relationship with Christ? When we are hurting, we lean harder on Christ and trust grows.
It is hard to shield our children today. They are faced with pressures that come in many forms. They deal with loss, death, divorce, disease, bullying, addictions, disappointments, pornography, teen pregnancy and even suicide.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
What then do we do as parents?
We have to prepare our children to go to battle.
1. Teach them God’s word.
2. Pray with them.
3. Talk to them about the issues they are facing.
4. Love them well.
5. Remind them that we are on the same team. We share a common enemy-the devil. Our conflict is with him and not each other.
6. Keep the lines of communication open.
7. Pray for God’s protection over your child.