This past November, I was able to compete for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge: a two-day test of military skills that included marksmanship, first aid knowledge, physical fitness, swimming and a road march. I learned more about Christ’s love and mercy than I did about being a soldier. By sharing this experience, I hope I give inspiration to others experiencing analogous situations in trusting God in times of great trial.
The training for the German Armed Forces Badge started in late August with long ruck marches and additional physical training. Swims in full uniform were included in the regime. To complete the swim during the competition, I had swim one-hundred meters in under four minutes, then take off my top and bottom, leaving only my PT uniform on. My now water-logged uniform then had to go onto the pool deck all the while I was treading water. This process was physically draining and many of my fellow GAFPB hopefuls had their hopes dashed by the water. I, too, was starting to question my resolve. I questioned if I was ready to complete the swim, to shoot well enough on the range or if I’d forget the first aid knowledge that I had learned. Luckily, God has blessed me with mentors that urged me to continue, even when faith in myself began to fail.
As we see in the Book of Judges, God calls those of us who feel uniquely unqualified for the task. God calls Gideon, a lowly farmer and by his own admission, the least of his family, to defeat the Midianites in the Old Testament. Gideon knew that he was weak and asked the Lord how he can possibly defeat the Midianites. God responded in Judges 6:16, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” As men and as humans, we often like to believe that we can do it all on our own. As Gideon shows us, it takes great courage to call upon the Lord when we are weak. I too, called upon the Lord in the days leading up to the competition, and the subsequent days during the competition.
Soon, the day was upon was. It was an early wake-up, even by Army standards, and we traveled to The University of Toledo where their ROTC would host the competition. This drive was painfully long as doubt crept in. Every seed of doubt that was planted between August and November blossomed in my head. We arrived at UT and immediately went to the pool for what would be a defining moment.
They say the water makes cowards of us all, and it certainly did of me. The first time I attempted the swim, I failed. The water filled my uniform and sapped my strength as I tried to pull myself through the water. I was bitterly disappointed and rather dejected. However, there wasn’t much time to dwell. I had to get ready to head the pistol range. At the pistol range, I placed five well-placed shots on target. However, it meant little if I could not pass the swim. After the range, I was told to grab my kit, that I was heading back to the pool to retake the swim. I once again was nervous, but I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would guide me and shepherd me through the water.
I, like Peter in the Gospel of Matthew, was crying for my Lord to save me. In a storm, the Twelve Apostles were being rocked in a boat and they saw Jesus walking on the water but did not recognize him. Jesus said to Peter and the other Apostles, “take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Well, I was afraid, but I took courage and entered the water again for what would be the final time. The water filled my uniform as I swam. It was not graceful, but I powered through the water and completed the swim with time to spare. The only task left was to take off the top and bottom. Treading water, I once again understood God’s faithfulness. God called me into the deep and didn’t let me fall. What I failed to realize and what I learned is that God never leaves us, and there is no reason to doubt. He calls out into the water and to have faith in Him. I ended up earning the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, but I learned more about my relationship with Christ than I did about being a soldier.
We depend on God. Like the Twelve Apostles in the Boat in the Gospel of Matthew, or Gideon in the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, we depend on God. We are guided by the Good Shepherd that leads us into green pastures. Our human frailty at times draws us to believe that we can do it alone. That is a lie that we must remind ourselves of daily. God equips us for the fight and he assures us, time and time again of his presence. During this time, I invite all of you to let God equip you for your next fight. Judges 6:12 puts it perfectly, “the Lord is with you.”
Soldiers for Christ