forget about yourself (your comfort, your ego, and your agenda) for just a few minutes
out of every day, then there is no limit to what you can achieve in life. One reason why I
have struggled so mightily during this deployment, in retrospect, is because I came here
extremely focused on myself. Being part of any team requires sacrifice, and this concept
is almost utterly foreign to a generation of people who were raised to believe that they are
I have complained loudly and often about some of the discomforts and disappointments
of this last seven months. While I suppose that’s natural, it has ultimately been utterly
pointless for me to do so. I can’t un-say the things which I’ve said, nor really would I
want to, since that would be tantamount to sweeping my own imperfections under the
proverbial rug. Nevertheless, I do believe that now, finally, at the end of deployment, I’m
coming to the realization that I should have made months ago: it’s not about me.
The good things which we’ve accomplished out here (and there have been several
successes which I unfortunately can’t discuss) have indeed made an impact on the wider
world. I may have hated every waking moment of my life while I was accomplishing
them, but that is one of the fundamental truths of life: nothing meaningful can ever be
accomplished without significant pain and sacrifice. Whether you’re running a marathon
or defending your nation, you will invariably experience much more pain while making
the gallant attempt than what you initially expected.
I was right when I said that this deployment has been very beneficial to me. I have
learned how the other half of the military lives. The people who don’t have the benefit of
a cushy stateside office are sacrificing a LOT more for our collective freedom than
anyone at home. While non-deployers in the military still serve in many valuable support
roles, they don’t truly know “the struggle.”
I’m ultimately grateful for the opportunity to have come out here. Even though I’d never
do it again of my own free will, it’s been extremely instructive to me to see just what it
takes to make the Navy operate effectively in the more remote places of the earth.
Everyone works. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boatswain’s mate, an engineer, or a candy-
ass shore duty linguist; at some point, everyone has to put some sweat equity into the ship
in order to keep it running.
I’m still planning to get out. Ten years is more than enough time spent in service to my
country, and I’d prefer not to give them the full decade of my thirties in addition to my
already-given decade of my twenties. As I’ve said before, the Navy will continue to grind
on just fine without me.
You cannot fully appreciate the good things you have in life until you’ve gone without
them. I thought I understood the words, “duty” and “sacrifice” perfectly well before I
came here. Yet an intellectual understanding of these words does absolutely no justice to
their true meaning, especially when there are real people (some of them very good and
decent folks) pouring their blood, sweat, and tears - and some, their lives - into the hard work which I had previously only studied from a distance.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4 about how he knew what it was to be hungry, and what it was
to be full. He knew what it was to be in plenty, and what it was to be in want. I empathize
very much with his feelings now. I know what it is to have a broken Reverse Osmosis
machine on the ship, which severely limits the ship’s water supply. I know what it is to
go extended periods of time without being able to shower, do laundry, or even use the
bathroom because our ship’s operations are more important than the material needs of its
crew. I know what it is to stand on the forecastle in 100+ degree weather and pull on a
gnarly, filthy, sea-soaked and heavy rope (we call them “lines” in the Navy world) with
sweat dripping from every pore in my body for two to three hours just so the ship can
take on fuel or get underway. Yet like Paul, I have learned the secret to being content in
all circumstances: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
That has been my message since literally day one of my writing career: Embrace the
struggle. God’s best tool for growing and developing his children is pain. He is not cruel;
he simply loves you too much to allow you to live the carefree and insulated life of a
child forever. Yet even amid the growing and the stretching, he is always there to provide
comfort and reassurance that ALL things are working out for your good.
Theodore Roosevelt argued at the turn of the last century that Americans were becoming
soft. He feared, as many people rightly fear nowadays, that the comforts of modern
convenience and technology were erasing the rugged and independent ethos which had
enabled Americans of previous generations to conquer their vast and unruly continent. He
said during a speech to the public, and I quote:
“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life,
the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife, to preach that highest form of success which
comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who doesn’t shrink
from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid
and ultimate triumph.”
struggles may be, whether physical, emotional, financial, or all of the above, God is
deeply concerned for your well-being. Even when he gives you trials and tribulations,
he’s promised in his Word that he will be with you always, and he will never leave you
nor forsake you.