I handwrote this blog entry a couple of months ago, but my laptop broke at the beginning of the month, so I have been unable to type it up. It is interesting how relevant this blog entry is right now, considering that the Naval judicial process has been featured in headline news with regard to Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. While reading the news articles about this case led me to feel very discouraged, I am reminded that my hope is in Christ alone, not a perfect judicial process here on earth. I hope this entry encourages and convicts you, as it did for me as I was living it out!
The best and hardest part of my job as a Naval Officer was leading and serving my Sailors well. I had the privilege to serve with men and women of a variety of ages, with a variety of backgrounds. When we were on deployment, away from family, friends, and our normal support system, “leading” and “serving” my Sailors became much more than just helping them achieve and maintain productive work lives. I had to mentor Sailors and monitor their emotional well-being when their spouse/significant other left them or when their brother was killed by gang violence (to name a few tragic incidents that occurred over my three deployments). Furthermore, as a Christian, I recognized that I was in a position to influence their faith and introduce them to Jesus.
Early on during my time as an officer, I had one particular Sailor who I poured a lot of energy into. This Sailor was incredibly intelligent but had a difficult, troubled past which resulted in behavior problems and a lack of respect of and trust in authority figures. I saw this Sailor’s potential and the deep hurt and scars that resulted in the misbehavior. I spent a lot of time counseling and encouraging her, and I thought we were making positive progress. However, to my great despair, this Sailor ended up acting out, and I had to initiate the discipline process in accordance with the Naval judicial process. Though I could understand why she behaved the way she did, it was my responsibility to maintain good order and discipline amongst my Sailors and make sure that all of our laws were adhered to and due respect was given to authority figures.
At one point in this judicial process, the accused Sailor was tried before the Executive Officer (XO) and the her Chain of Command (to include me as her Division Officer). At one point during the proceedings, the XO asked this Sailor if anyone in her Chain of Command tried to reach out and support her. I was waiting, expectantly, for her to look at me and list out all the things that I had done to support her… I will never forget her response: “NO. No one has helped me.”
I was absolutely crushed. After the proceedings were over, I actually ran off after my Sailor in order to talk to her – I am not sure what I was trying to accomplish – convince this Sailor of everything I had done for her? Recount all of the extra hours that I invested in her career and her emotional well-being? Point out how much time I had sacrificed counseling her?
Recently, I was struck by how this experience gave me a small taste of what God experiences every time I rebel against Him or deny His sovereignty and goodness in my life.
I can recount multiple times, during seasons of great personal hardship, when I was reminded by a church sermon that Christ sacrificed his life for me by dying on a cross for my sins. I remember sitting in the church pew, looking up at the cross hanging above the pulpit and thinking “Jesus’ sacrifice 2,000 years ago on a cross isn’t good enough for me. I want him to change my circumstances or fix this problem in my life, right now” or “I like my sin, it makes me feel good and sometimes I just don’t feel how God can be good. If He loves me so much, why is He letting me suffer?” In these moments of despair and doubting, Jesus’ love for me, displayed on the cross, was not enough for me to want to turn from my sinful behaviors, and follow God’s law out of gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice; I viewed myself as a victim to my circumstances instead of a saved sinner who had an eternity in heaven to look forward to. My Sailor, similarly, felt as if she was a victim to her circumstances, and my efforts to love her did not produce the change in behaviors that I had hoped for. She also rejected the Naval law that was put in place for her own benefit and for the good of those around her. And, most painfully, she rejected me and my efforts to love her and support her. But this rejection was slight compared to how I reject God when I chose my sin over obedience to God’s law, a law given to me, out of love, for my own ultimate good. I may have sacrificed time for my Sailor, but Jesus sacrificed his life for me!
Thankfully, neither story ends here.
After the trial, I continued to pursue and encourage this Sailor. After some time passed, my Sailor and I reconciled. She even sent me a care package a couple of years later when I deployed with my new Command! I got teary-eyed when I received her gift in the mail – it meant so much to me! Similarly, Jesus never stopped pursuing me! “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Before I was a Christian, I lived in the sin of my flesh, but Christ still loved me and patiently wooed me to himself! After accepting Christ as my Savior, I continue to sin as my flesh constantly wars with the Holy Spirit indwelling me. I still struggle with seasons of questioning God’s promises, and I wonder if Jesus is really enough to satisfy my soul. And YET, Jesus has always been there, gently guiding me and drawing me back to Himself through His Word and through my church body. I thank God for his steadfast love!
While I was tempted to give up on my Sailor after the legal proceeding, God never considering giving up on me. Through my seasons of rebellion, God continued to woo me with His promises, found in the Bible, for those who entrust their lives to Jesus – sweet promises such as “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6), “you [God] will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10), and “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
I pray that these verses may encourage and comfort you, and they would remind you that our God is enough and the sacrifice of Jesus points to God’s INCREDIBLE love for us! May we not reject Jesus in our moments of trial, but instead, cling all the more tightly to his good promises found in his Word.
Post by Brynn Gray