First, take the time that you have in the desert to realize that your relationship with God is fixed. There is nothing separating you and God because of Christ alone. Realize that your addictive personality is a gift. Be addicted to God’s Word and consume it.
Some of my (our) greatest memories of being in the Marine Corps was the time that I had to study the Bible. I often wish that I would have spent more time doing so and including my pals in on it. I am so thankful for my relationship with Christ. Many veterans often struggle with adjusting, struggle with civilian life, and have found it to be a tough time all together. My relationship with Christ has been the difference. I have a peace, joy and comfort that can only come from Him. Having a family who feels the same is huge and they have been used by God to bless me in ways that money could never ever buy. Without giving to much of the future away….those thoughts of a future family….those times when you knew what you were doing was for them…those prayers that you prayed asking God to protect them and give them to you when the time is right…God was faithful. Not only was God faithful, but God blessed you (us) beyond your (our) imagination with the family that I (we) have right now. The joy that you will experience…haha I’m going to stop there. God answered your prayers….but more than that…He showed off…and He loved doing it.
While you are on base, if there is a chapel where you are staying at…go to it…make friends who go to it. If there is not….start one or a Bible study. Draw close to God and rejoice in realizing that the distance between you and God is forever fixed because of Christ. You have immediate access to the Father because of the Son. The closeness between you and God does not fluctuate as a result of what you do and don’t do. Nothing, not even you can separate you from that kind of love and relationship.
God has chosen you and will keep you.
Second, write home and write often. One of my biggest regrets was not responding to or writing back to letters that I received from family, friends and strangers. I can remember the tears that were formed because of a red piece of construction paper written in 2nd grade hand writing with crayon reading “I love you, thank you, and I’m proud of you.” If I could go back I would write back to every letter that I received. I encourage you to do so. Get over yourself with whatever reasons that you may have in why you are not writing back. Yes it may be emotional, yes it may be difficult, yes it may be humbling, yes it may jeopardize your ability to stay focused and remain emotionally detached to do what is being asked of you…but it is worth it.
Every friend, every family member, every stranger…write back and tell them thanks and how much their letter motivated you and encouraged you and how much you appreciated the time that they took to write to you. Always have a thankful heart…always let others know that you are thankful for them, always give thanks to God.
Third, before every mission tell those who you are riding out with that you love them. Be serious about it. Let them know that you are there for them. If you have a Chaplain with you have him pray over your group as you leave the wire. If you don’t have a Chaplain volunteer to lead prayer. Before you part ways when you get home, be sure that you have the people who you are serving with’s contact information. There will come a day when you are sitting somewhere, something will jog a memory of yours about them and you will think “I wonder how ole knucklehead is doing?” At that moment you will kick yourself for not having a way to reach them and for not keeping in touch.
Fourth, do not be afraid of coming home. Do not be afraid in finding someone to confide in when you get home. You are not alone. There are literally millions of us who are veterans and have been in your shoes before and there are even more millions who are your countrymen and are willing to jump through hoops, take risks, put themselves out to help, comfort, talk with and encourage those who have sacrificed everything to serve their country. The thought that you are alone is a lie. It has plagued many. It will not plague you.
Tell your pals to surround themselves with people who love them. That contact info mentioned earlier should help. God also will make the difference in this. Remember before you signed up that you prayed and asked God to give you the ability to turn Marine on/off? He answered your prayer and has given you a sound mind. Thank God for this! Do not be afraid to live. Do not fear civilian life. Share your confidence with your fellow veteran pals. Let them know that you have 0% confidence in you but 100% confidence in Christ and that is why you love life and are enjoying it. Because of what Christ has done in you.
The future family that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, God uses them to remind you every day that you are loved and He loves you. Ok I will stop no more spoilers…just know…your family is awesome…never stop cherishing and treasuring them. In all that you do, every decision that you make do it for the glory of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Let go of whatever control you “think” you have and allow the Holy Spirit to kick the brakes off in your life…the ride will be amazing.
Finally, rest in who Jesus is and what He has done. Stop asking What Would Jesus Do and start resting in the answer to the question of What Has Jesus Done. It’s over. No more slavery no more condemnation but grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It is really finished.
Sgt. (yeah you finally get promoted…in the mail..while in the IRR haha) Zachary James Cole (7 year older you)
p.s. never stop running. I know, I know there is nothing that you hate more. But trust me….you will hate getting winded without having to spend 5 minutes of sustained activity more than you do running. That first time you climb a flight of stairs will make you feel nasty.