Loneliness on Patrol

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? –Hebrews 12:9

Who would miss a grizzly Marine Corps drill instructor screaming in their face for the smallest slip-up? After a grueling three months of Marine boot camp served up by these technicians of pain I was certain I’d never miss my drill instructors.

Thirty days after graduation from boot camp I was experiencing my first Christmas away from home. My family lived in Michigan–I was stationed in California for Infantry Training School.

Camp Pendleton, California, Christmas day, I was assigned guard duty–foot patrol, guarding empty Quonset huts, in the middle of the night, armed with a walkie-talkie and a nightstick. It was then that a wave of deep loneliness pushed over me–all I could think of was my family, how loved I was by them, how much I missed them and how much they were probably enjoying Christmas–without me.

But now I have eight children of my own and I understand that my parents were probably in more pain than I was. Having raised me to fear and serve God and having sheltered me from the world for 18 years I was now far from home and completely on my own in Southern California–far from their loving guidance and protection.

What I didn’t realize then was that the structure and rigorous discipline of boot camp and those surly drill instructors yelling in my face had given me a sense of security that I didn’t realize was there until I was all alone with no one to tell me what to do. And then while on patrol that lonely Christmas day afternoon my radio crackled to life with the melodious sound of the duty sergeant yelling at me to check in–my assignment was complete.

So now I try to teach my children that my instruction and discipline in their lives is good for them and that they should be thankful for this period of time in their lives. And those who study these things tell me that children actually prefer structure and discipline–somebody should tell my kids.

I also pastor a little country church of loving, obedient, God fearing people. And I’m constantly trying to teach them that there’s security and comfort, protection and guidance in loving and obeying God’s commands.

So I’d suggest to you, and I remind myself, that we not resent and resist the loving discipline of those who care for our lives. And when you feel like you’re all alone, remember, your heavenly Father loves you.