thousand mile journey that will eventually take me home. This voyage has been
extremely beneficial for me, though not in any particularly enjoyable sense. I have
benefitted from the hardships and frustrations of these last six months in the same way
that a precious metal benefits from a trip through the furnace. I have had several
opportunities to examine myself, and like the dross which is skimmed from the top of
molten silver, I have found many impurities in my own heart which were brought forth
by the trying circumstances of these months which ought to be skimmed off.
One thought that I’ve never let go of amid all of the frustration is the idea that I am only
here temporarily, that this deployment is not my permanent state of existence. Like a
good Christian traveler who views this earth as no more than a transient place of
residence, I too have been reminded that my REAL home is not on board this ship, but
with my family.
The best advice I’ve gotten from anyone out here came from a very salty Chief. He has
served for 17 years, 11 of those spent at sea. He recently counseled me that at some point,
the Navy will one day tell every single person who works for them to “go home.”
Retirement is often viewed as the honorable end to a life spent in service to one’s
country, but afterwards I’m told that many career Sailors experience a powerful sense of
loss and aimlessness, as if the greatest accomplishments of their life are forever behind
them. His advice to me, in light of the inevitability of his own impending retirement, was
to make sure that when all was said and done, I still had a home to go back to.
The Navy will continue to grind on, and their meager thanks for a life spent in exhausting
service to them will never truly make up for the sacrifices you’re asked to make on their
behalf. Make sure that you’re looking forward to more than just a retirement check. Make
sure there’s something waiting for you at home; someone to miss you, someone to worry
about while you’re away. No person is an island, and there can be no substitute for the
love of a family. For these reasons, I have elected to get out and go back to San Diego,
hopefully to complete my college degree, but at the bare minimum I will be sure to spend
as much quality time as possible with the people I love.
The Navy is not the end-all, be-all of accomplishment. While we are ostensibly “making
the world a safer place for democracy” out here, there is very little in my day to day life
which seems to me a reasonable justification for the massive expenditure of time and
effort which deployment requires. I didn’t come halfway around the world just to drift
aimlessly off the coast of a nation that the world little notices, and I certainly didn’t come
out here to paint over rust and push a broom. I came because I believed that my country
needed my skills here, and while I’ve gotten some small gratification out of the
occasional use I’ve found for my skill set, these rare moments are far outweighed by the
overwhelming realization that the Navy and the Country are both carrying on as they
always have in spite of their steady and downward spiral.
Maybe I’m just not cut out for fleet life. Maybe the office environment I was accustomed
to was just a paradise far-removed from the harsh reality of the actual Navy. If that’s true,
then I can’t blame the fleet types for looking down on me. Yet I think it bears
acknowledgement that an outsider also brings a valuable novelty of perspective to a
situation controlled by those who are “in the club.” Whereas everyone else has become
inured to the pain and uselessness of their situation, an unbiased outsider can
dispassionately asses the same circumstances and sometimes provide a meaningful
prognosis for change.
My diagnoses for necessary change around here are many, but I will reserve those for
another time. What I would like to stress right now is that, wherever you may find
yourself in life, just remember that it’s ok NOT to fit in. As Christians, we are called to
be in the world, but not of the world. Just as I am an outsider to the world of the Surface
Navy, so too are we all outsiders to the increasingly-secular world in which we live. As
much as we are called to try and make positive changes in that world, we must also
remember at all times that our home awaits us elsewhere.
Hold on to your identity at all costs. If I had allowed myself to “play the game” and fit in
around here, I may have been better able to proceed through this deployment relatively
problem-free. Nevertheless, when I returned home, I would have found myself even more
distant and jaded than I already feel, and for that my relationships with others would have
suffered more than they already have. To me, the needs of the Navy are no longer worth
the sacrifice of my individuality. Never forget who you are, and where you belong.
When I started this blog, I wrote on the About Me page why I named it “Sailing for
Home.” I believe that life is a journey to the home we call heaven, and the trip to get
there is a long, often arduous one, fraught with distractions and perils. As I begin to sail
home in a few weeks, I can only look forward expectantly towards the relief that I know
is coming when I finally set foot on dry land, never to look back at the annoying, rust-
infested hunk of metal that has been my home for these past seven months. So too are we
all striving to find that place in eternity where we truly belong, where we are loved
unconditionally by the God who has been waiting expectantly since the day he created us
for that blessed day of reunion.
As I said when I first started writing, Keep Going. The journey may be long, and the path
not always clear, but God has promised to guide us as we seek out the correct course in
life, and by his strength we will carry on until we arrive safely at the shores of eternity.
Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it forth to
completion, until the day of Christ Jesus.