Damaged Trust, Part 2

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2016 by jcwill5

downloadTrust can be eroded slowly over time.

In this case, we slowly develop other loves, other interests, and other directions without formally quitting the relationship.

Until there is no relationship left.

The damage to our trust is self-inflicted by a series of small, daily choices to not cherish, build up, or protect our trust in God, our spouse, our church, etc.

We let go of the anchor and drift away with the tide flowing away from the shore until we are far out to sea.

Traumatized Trust

Or trust can be shattered and overthrown by trauma (or group of traumas).

This is where our life is shattered and our normal is now gone, perhaps forever.

We are left reeling and gasping for air.

There are no explanations, and nothing makes sense.

The pain is so intense we ask, “Why?!” and “How could…?!”

Strong emotions buffet us–anger, protest, blaming, depression, despair.

In the “cluster of griefs” scenario, we did not see it coming.

There was no indicator light, no early warning.

We were moving along in stability, in security, in predictability.

Our deepest assumptions about life, our formulas for good living, were operating nicely.

We were comfortable and settled.

Caught Off Guard

Then it’s all overthrown.

We find ourselves living our worst nightmare and there is no end in sight.

The pain is unrelieved, and is far bigger than we are, swallowing us alive.

Others, finding our plight so disturbing they can’t handle it, distance themselves.

Still others spout off bromides, empty cliches, and pious platitudes–subtly asserting that, if we had only taken their advice, we could never have found ourselves in the situation or could quickly escape it.

It adds insult to injury.

We end up terribly alone, with unanswerable questions, questioning our long-held beliefs and harboring serious doubts about God’s justness, goodness, and compassion.

The Job Scenario

This is the scenario Job faced.

Losing all his wealth to plunderers and natural disasters, and losing all his children in one fell swoop, evoked worship.

Losing his health and enduring months of unrelieved physical suffering, evoked outward silence and inward seething.

Having his friends blame him for his suffering produced a round of furious arguments with them.

They all shared a reward-punishment view of God–good people are blessed and bad people are afflicted.

Job had taken his religious system as far as it could go–and had done everything right to position himself on favorable terms with God.

Then his life was shattered inexplicably and without warning.

His friends, voicing the viewpoint he himself believed, came to the wrong conclusion:  all suffering is the sufferers’ fault.

It infuriated Job.

He knew he hadn’t done what they accused him of doing, and his conscience was clear.

False, Premature Conclusions

So God must have changed the rules and moved the goalposts.

Upon reflection, were there not many wicked people living in affluence, security and peace?

Why would God do good and show kindness to sinners?

And were there not many righteous people enduring suffering, hardship, and sorrow?

Why would God so deeply afflict the most loyal, highly performing people on His own team?

Interestingly, it turns out that it wasn’t the infinite Person of God that had failed, but a simplistic and one-dimensional view of Him that needed to be outgrown and discarded.

As the later part of the book makes clear, God has many reasons for doing what He does–perhaps we can understand 3 or 4 of them, and perhaps a lot of what happens to us isn’t about us at all.

Perhaps God wants to take us deeper with Himself than we’ve ever gone before, and our facile, juvenile views of God are standing in His way.

Damaged To Be Better Built

So God is introduced as the ultimate Teacher.

And Job finally gets the mano-a-mano encounter with God he had been demanding–and gets far more than he bargained for in the exchange.

God first demotes Job’s ego–reminding him in a series of questions that Job is tiny, severely limited in perspective, and minuscule in his capabilities.

God then shows Job how much he doesn’t know, causing Job to withdraw his harsh accusations against God and ask to be taught by God instead.

He is satisfied with seeing God face-to-face at a level his nice little system couldn’t do.

In other words, there is an intriguing possibility that God makes us worse in order to make us far better in the end.

We go from a child-like initial faith to a childish magical faith to an adult, tested, reality-based faith of beholding a surpassing majesty and unfathomable mystery, which leaves us in a state of astounded worship.

Faith Triumphant in the End

What God is trying to damage and destroy is false trust.

What God is trying to purge out are the other, hidden idols mixed up with and mistaken for Him.

He uses extreme means to bring us out of a magic that leaves us in control, so we can be brought into an awed trust that rests in God’s unfathomably good control in ways we had no previous eyes to see.

The cluster of traumas that so deeply damage our comfortable faith expose the deficiencies of our faith, our shoddy, underlying view of God’s goodness and how we relate to Him.

They force to the surface our unspoken deals, our hidden bargains, our comfortable self-centered assumptions where we work a religious system to get what we want out of God and stay on His good side.

We discover in the end, if we hang onto God despite seasons of shattering, that we are not in the hands of an aloof, heavenly torturer stabbing us for no reason.

Instead, we are under the care of a heart surgeon who plunges the knife deeply to correct hidden heart defects and trust disorders that would kill us if left untreated.

A surgeon who died on the Cross for us, who suffered unimaginably for us through no fault of His own, who knows far better than we do about unrelieved, senseless suffering, and of what deepest trust when all Hell breaks loose really is.

And, most importantly, a trust that took Him all the way through to the resurrection and glory on the other side of Hell.

There is a solution!

Damaged Trust, Part 1

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2016 by jcwill5

trustTrust is something quite difficult for most of us to give.

We’ve been let down or hurt one too many times to freely trust.

Our trust has been damaged.

The Nature of Trust

Unlike love, trust is conditional.

It is earned by faithfulness, proven character, and a track-record of goodness.

We are safe with trustworthy people, can let our hair down with them, and experience relational freedom when with them instead of always being on our guard.

Yet trust is an essential part of love–without it and love degrades into a series of distrustful control games and battles for dominance.

In such a case we give ourselves all our trust, and give God and other people He sends into our lives far too little trust.

Out of our pain, we want to never be vulnerable, never give ammo by admitting our wrongs, never admit let down our guard, and never lose control.

It is an horrible dead end, this over-reaction to getting burned.

The Fragility of Trust

Trust if fragile.

It is easily wounded by betrayal, abuse, and broken promises.

We learn early in life that not everyone is to be trusted, that even people we love will let us down, and therefore trust is a treasure to be bestowed only on the trustworthy, on those who we can count upon to be good to us.

Naivety and gullibility open ourselves up to exploitation, abuse, and deep hurt–part of adulthood is learning how to not trust the untrustworthy yet freely trust those we love.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that we ourselves need to work on our own trustworthiness and dependability in our relationships with others.

Some demand unconditional and absolute trust from all others, but can never be trusted by anyone else due to their pain-driven narcissism.

Such people are the bane of the quest to heal our damaged trust.

How easy it is to become one of them!

Step One Towards Healing Damaged Trust

That’s why the first step to healing our damaged trust is to admit our trust has been damaged.

We find it difficult to trust again, to be vulnerable towards God and others and allow His grace-giving agape love back into our lives.

We admit our faith has been damaged, that we have pulled away from God and others and, out of self-protection, are holding back our hearts from any and all.

We admit we don’t understand why He allowed us to be so repeatedly and deeply hurt, that we don’t understand His mysterious but agonizing purposes, and don’t at all appreciate what has happened to us on His watch.

It’s saying out loud, “I don’t trust God the way I once did–something’s been wounded deep within and in need of emotional/spiritual healing.”

I don’t worry about folks who are having an argument with God–at least they’re still talking to Him and working through their anger at Him.

Drawn out spiritual wrestling contests and extended faith boxing matches are, oddly, signs of buried but still alive trust.

Tempted to Walk Away Entirely

No, I worry most about myself and others when there’s a silent shrug of resignation and all words dry up.

When we quit the faith field entirely and withdraw into our techno-bubbles private pursuits and our “fortress of solitude” private homes.

It’s in such a place of emotional distancing that:

We turn our back on our family.

We walk away from the marriage.

We stop going to church.

We fall away from the faith.

We’re there but we’re no longer there.

Where there’s nothing more to say, turning our backs, we strike out on our own god-less path.

Hitting Bottom

Yet, sadly and ironically, it’s precisely this “walk-away” zone where we most need, yet most resist, God’s lavishing, grace-giving, holding-close agape love.

This place is aptly called, “hitting bottom.”

It takes a leap of faith to admit our utter need, our utter powerlessness, and seek a “far beyond us” healing love we cannot arrange and cannot control.

The cry of the desperate, distraught father long ago, “I believe–help my unbelief!”, must be our cry if we are to escape being devoured by our distrust.

Next time I will explore healing places in Scripture that God has used to bring me back from the brink.

Exercising Our Thankful Muscle

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2016 by jcwill5

happythanksSometime today, in the midst of all the busyness and preparations, take some unhurried time to pause and give thanks.

Here’s Why We Bother to Give Thanks

Human nature is not naturally thankful.

It has a dissatisfied, forgetful, ungrateful propensity that engages in comparing, complaining, and self-pity–which makes us and everyone around us more miserable.

Thanksgiving counteracts this downward nasty drift into ingratitude and soured souls.

Giving thanks is thus a positive source of good.

It’s contagious. It leads to more giving thanks, and leads others who hear it into giving thanks.

It reminds us of all the good we’ve forgotten that still surrounds us if we chose to see it.

And it reminds us we didn’t deserve any of it.

If we’re sick of all the complaining, don’t just tell people to stop.

Start positively giving thanks in response to complaining.

So let’s try a little exercise today….

First Look at Your Relationships

Give thanks for ten things you appreciate about your spouse, and for ten things you value about your children.

Then say it out loud to them.

Give thanks for ten things your parents did right or for ten life lessons you learned from them.

Write them a note letting them know.

Count up all the friends you’ve ever had in your life, and all the good you’ve known through them.

Call one of them up and make their day.

Think about all the jobs you’ve ever had, and give thanks for all the paychecks you received and the skills you gained and the people you met.

If you tell your boss, you might change him or her in ways you can’t imagine.

Think about your travels and vacations, and give thanks for the natural and cultural wonders you’ve seen.

Think about your education–your teachers, schools, courses of study–and give thanks you are no longer in ignorance and illiteracy.

Nothing would cheer educators up so much than to hear from a blessed, former student.

Now Look Around Your Home

Do you live in a home? Is it heated? Separate rooms for everyone? Running hot and cold water? Electricity?

Is there Food in the frig and in the pantry? Clothes in your closets? Cars in the driveway? Gadgets and devices unheard of in earlier times? Fully furnished and decorated?

That’s right, you’re part of the richest 1% who’ve ever lived on the planet!

Lots of Third World folks would love to trade places with you, and can only fantasize about the kind of material prosperity you enjoy every single day.

They can’t imagine not wondering where their next meal comes from, or not having to walk miles to the nearest clean, running water or needing to haul it back on foot.

You can’t imagine worrying about these basic survival needs.

Now Look At Your Nation

Do you live under a strong government, providing law and order and keeping chaos mostly at bay?

Are you suffering the ravages of war, or do you live in a land unscathed and free from bombings, shots ringing out, and armed terror gangs?

A huge slice of humanity doesn’t enjoy these blessings. We Americans do.

Regular elections contested by long-standing political parties in a representative democracy?

A division of powers that keeps power from being concentrated in the hands of a dictator?

A bill of rights that guarantees the freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, of lawful assembly?

Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure?

The right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers? The right to face your accuser? Presumed innocent until proven guilty?

Violent crime rates are near 50 YEAR LOWS, our environment has now largely clean, and our lifespans are the highest they’ve ever been- despite what scare-mongering news outlets say.

We Americans are very blessed.

We have so many freedoms we take for granted.

But few people complain more, or give thanks less, than we do.

It’s not very becoming.

Now Look Up

Then there’s our spiritual blessings.

God didn’t owe any sinner anything good. but everlasting judgment in Hell.

Yet, with the greatest compassion possible, He saw our plight, took pity on us, and personally intervened in human affairs,

He exhausted His wrath upon Himself instead of us at the Cross–freeing us from the sin-death regime we were all under and liberating our souls from the tyranny of sin.

All received as a free gift in simple trust–entrusting our selves to Him and trusting Him to apply all He did on our behalf to us.

Instead of hell, we are given heaven!

Instead of judgment, forgiveness!

Instead of shame, cleansing and honor!

Instead of rejection, adoption as His children!

Instead of death, eternally alive!

Instead of a cesspool of complaining, a fountain of everlasting joy!

If you’re a Christian, overflowing thanksgiving is our normal state of heart and mind.

Thanksgiving is what God wants most for us and from us.

It’s the devil that wants people to be miserable, complaining, ungrateful, bitter, etc.

Shall I go on?

Or have I said more than enough to convince you it’s well worth our time to take all the time we need to “count your blessings, name them one by one”?

Trusting Again After Deep Pain

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2016 by jcwill5

 

imagesWhat will we do when sorrows are multiplied and we cannot escape them?

When we bear a pain we cannot manage and cannot relieve?

Pain of the Aged

Consider the plight of the elderly.

With every year, their circle of friends and family keeps shrinking as folks begin to die off–and the die off keep accelerating.

Then their bodies age and begin to break down and slow down.

With every setback, another set of life’s activities is closed to them and they cannot ever get away from their failing bodies.

The values and customs of their youth, their cherished causes and shared generational memories, die off as well.

Old age, whether one is of the faith or not, is filled with loss upon loss and sorrow followed by sorrow over and over and over again, going down, down, down.

Notice both the multiplied injuries piling up and never completed resolution before the next loss.

This is a life of disrupted grief and it is terrible.

It is any wonder that most old folks end up closed off and embittered rather than open-hearted and sweet by the end?

Pain of the Forgotten

Consider the plight of those spending their lives in areas of rural and urban poverty.

Job loss follows job loss, as companies leave cities and as manufacturing plants and resource-rich industries are shuttered.

Their families are broken with increasingly few marriages and much single-parent, usually fatherless, households.

Crime, abuse, and social isolation are the norm, and society has little but scorn for them–adding insult to injury and supremely devaluing boys and young men who are acting out and acting up in protest.

The core of all the above is sorrow upon sorrow, multiplied griefs that never are healed and comforted before a fresh assault happens.

This, also, is a life of disrupted grief and it, also, is terrible.

With the rural/urban men of poverty and rootlessness, the monied, techno-elites are sanctimonious and scornful to those living in projects and trailer parks.

So insult is added to their injury by judgmental advice-giving and labels by those safely in their affluent bubbles.

Such callousness destroys all bonds of trust and affection.

It is the tragedy of our times.

My Own Grief Pattern

But moving to my own life’s course, I have had some realizations of my own.

I, too, have experienced of season of multiplied and painful losses on so many fronts, and the disruptive, destructive impact of grief piled on top of grief.

It was last night, at a Bible study with mostly young men who are listening to studies crafted by an inner city pastor on manhood, that I had a revelation.

It became painfully clear that my trust in God’s goodness has been damaged–not to the point of outright rebellion or unbelief, but in a certain kind of quiet distancing and hiding my heart from Him.

I’m not really pursuing Him as I once did or seeking the closest possible heart connection with my Lord.

I’m treading water instead of swimming forward, in a long-range holding pattern instead of really going somewhere with God.

And there is an indisputable fact–whenever I experience betrayal and deep hurt in key relationships, I pull away from God for a season and flounder spiritually deep within.

The root is an ancient, emotion-based doubt in God’s love when irresolvable conflict and the pain of abandonment happen.

It is followed by a recovery of sorts until the “next time”.

But, worst of all, I lost my way, lost the strong connection I once had to Christ.

I lost out on the intimacy He wanted to share with me in “the fellowship of His sufferings” of these dark times.

Nobody did this to me–I and I alone chose this “no trust, pull away” response.

The Great Question

How could God let all these awful things happen?  Why didn’t He stop those rejecting people?  Does He even care?

All these are honest questions every one of His followers has asked either openly or secretly whispered.

And they don’t just involve sterile beliefs about God, but touch open the very personal nature of our ongoing trust in God Himself, in His goodness, in His unfailing love.

So the real question is this:  will I or won’t I trust Him again?  Will I or won’t I draw near Him again not just in lip-service or outward behavior, but from the heart?

Will I admit my deepest need for healed trust, for the capacity to abandon myself into His care and trust fully in His unfathomable love?

The real contest isn’t between trusting God and trusting nothing, but between trusting in God and trusting in my fallen, hyper-protective, ultimately disappointing, untrustworthy self.

Will I leave my fortress of solitude, my hideout, and re-engage with life and friendships and risky adventures again for His sake?

I think the answer is yes–a very weak and trembling kind of yes that needs a constant miracle of strength for it to happen and keep happening.

How about you?

Puncturing Political Religion

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2016 by jcwill5

trump_protest_thursday3_1478831040868_7000044_ver1-0Apparently, our society is an unquestioning society–except when we want to accuse others or discount others who disagree with us.

But honest questions, especially honest questions that get underneath all the pretenses, self-deceptions, and games we play, are golden.

That is, if you want to find out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about yourself.

Especially if you want to do it during an intense political season.

Honest questions that have no easy answers move us away from being right towards a kind of relentless self-honesty that makes us both compassionate and brave.

And that’s not popular these days to do.

Jesus’ Model of Questions

One of the things I most appreciate about the earthly ministry of Jesus is His penchant for asking questions.

Probing questions in response to His enemies’ insincere, entrapping questions.

Enlightening questions that helped to His obtuse disciples finally see the truth He was trying to tell them.

Haunting questions that instantly exposed the agenda of religious fakes trying to justify themselves and/or hide their hypocrisy.

Tender questions that brought the fearful forward, or that helped the spiritually trapped find freedom.

  • “Who do you say that I am?”
  • “Where is your faith?”
  • “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men?”
  • “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the one who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
  • “If the Messiah is David’s son, how then does David call him ‘Lord’?
  • “Which of these two will love him more?”
  • “Were there not ten who were healed?  Did no one turn back to give glory to God except this foreigner?”
  • “Who touched Me?”
  • “Is there no one here to accuse you?”

Domineering Pronouncements

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s surprise election, it’s how strident and domineering people on all sides are.

It made me remember how I used to be before repeated soul surgeries and holy exposures happened these past 30 years.

So, in a spirit of a recovering controller, I humbly say:

I wonder if any of us realize how often and how intensely we tell others what to think.

We have fallen into this bad habit:   there’s only one way of seeing things–my way.

There’s only one right viewpoint–our side’s.

There’s only one group of people allowed in our lives–those who validate and agree with us.

There’s only one group that needs to pay the price to get what we want–them.

Therefore, we somehow have a mandate to keep on telling you what to say, how to feel, what to think, and what to believe.

And we must hector you and beat our drum until everyone agrees with us.

Why?

Why do we need the entire human race to always agree with us and validate us all the time?

Why do we expect there to be only one valid way of seeing it, only one proper way of feeling about it, only one legitimate way of discussing it?

Are we so trapped in our own Left or Right ideological box that we are never permitted to say, “We can’t explain everything” and “We don’t have all the answers” and “We are OK with dissent and disagreement” and “our ideology has failed your group” and “we’ve been blind to how badly our social agenda has hurt you”?

Are we so consumed with our politics that we can’t allow other people think at all differently than we do? And have to “correct” anything and everything on Facebook?

Are we so controlling that we no longer realize how much we use “must”, “should” and “ought” in our posts, discussions, etc.?

It’s almost like politics has become our religion.

It’s almost like our political ideology has become our religious doctrine.

It feels a lot like how the Inquisition must have worked–to silence, punish, and eliminate all heresy, all dissent, all deviations from Medieval Church.

It sure has parallels with the religious crusades of 1,000 years ago– a secular kind of Jihad against the political infidel.

Haunting Questions

So I ask my fellow Christ-followers:

Do we love our ideology more than we love God and others?

Do we love Him or our politics more?

Which do we value most and work for the most: His interests, or our own?  His kingdom, or our nation?  Eternity, or this present life?

Which is predominant and which is subordinate:  our party, or our Lord?  

Which outcome fuels our passions most:  the White House, or the Cross?

Do we honestly think the King of Kings, God Incarnate, somehow sanctions, excuses, and/or blesses modern idolatries like individualism or collectivism?  Libertarianism or state-ism?  Capitalism or socialism?

And what do our words, attitudes, and actions say is the answer to the above questions?

Can we even hear ourselves, hear how we sound to others, hear how we come off to the onlooking fallen world of lost people, anymore?

Do we realize we’ve fallen into the bad habit of interpreting everything that happens in the world–both good and bad– to reinforce what we already believe and to justify ourselves?

And do we realize this need to ever be right, this assumption of correctness, this thirst for control and dominance, this relating to the world out of injured pride, has nothing at all to do with God?

And, most important, will we repent of it and return to Him who loves us best?

That’s what I’m working on these days.

How about you?

Trudging Along

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2016 by jcwill5

thOne of my sister’s favorite words is trudging.

However difficult life is, however hard recovery is, you keep slogging and moving forward–however slowly.

Another good word is muddling.

Instead of perfect outcomes or ideal conditions, life is a mixture of bad and good, positive and negative, up and down.

We keep hoping for a heaven on earth, and, instead, we most often are going to be trudging along and muddling through life.

In fact, though it offends our idealism, there is great grace in lowly muddling and non-glamorous trudging through the slog of life.

Christian Realism

Trudging is the creed of realism.

It is taking a fearless moral inventory of fallen humanity and reminding ourselves that there will be no heaven on earth this side of heaven.

We are outside the Garden of Eden, and are sinners in need of salvation through the actions of an Outside Agent.

Neither human governments, nor dynamic leaders, will save us.

We are each and together facing problems that dwarf our capacities, issues that are far greater than we are, and situations beyond our capacity to resolve permanently.

There will be no second Tower of Babel reaching all the way to heaven–instead we remain divided and scattered and confused by our multiplex of differing languages, cultures, and nations.

It’s a form of relentless honesty that knows there is a fly in every ointment, and a flaw in every plan, and a downside to every ideology and every kind of idealism.

The Curse still applies–our every endeavor and labor will be marked by frustration, futility, and, ultimately, demise in dust and ashes.

Grace Instead of Natural Goodness

Christian Realism looks hard into the mirror and admits it has the same faults lurking deep within as those it is tempted to most harshly denounce and criticize.

For every speck we criticize in others, there is a log in our own eye.

I therefore don’t expect natural, automatic goodness out of fallen human nature.

I expect selfishness, hypocrisy, and blindness.

Good outcomes are thus undeserved blessings, not pay offs for the deserving.

I do not elevate some groups as having all perfection or justice on their side, or write off other groups as being beyond redemption or having no value to God.

What we all need to do together is to repent.

That’s where our true equality, our true commonality, will be found under God and enjoyed in God alone.

Faith Instead of Magic

I’ve given up on magic.

I don’t believe in magical leaders, or magical outcomes, or magical promises to “fix everything” or “make it all better”.

I don’t buy into magical ideologies that leave no room for dissent, or idolatries that leave no room for God.

Sooner or later, there will be overreach and abuse of power.

The wheel will turn, and the preening peacocks on top now will fall from power and enjoy a steaming slice of humble pie.

And, one day, God will put an end to all of them and His Kingdom will come and His will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So I labor against my own stuff, striving to put all my trust chips on Him and invest all my heart in knowing Him.

And often failing badly at it and needing forgiveness and restoration…again!

Such faith is hard work and requires a constant battle against wounded pride within–which seeks to involve me in its resented ego-injuries and enlist me in its vindictive “just causes”.

It’s mostly about trudging forward and muddling along, however slowly.

It’s best done with other trudging folks–from a posture of treasured smallness and beloved lowliness.

Moving Out of Ego-Outrage

Facebook and Twitter these days are filled with outraged or gratified egoism and some kind of wounded pride–national pride, racial pride, cultural pride, or religious pride– voicing its anger or delight.

Lots of egos are having to come to terms with losing badly, with coming out of denial about realities they ignored and people they discounted in order to champion their own favored groups.

Still other egos are feeling vindicated and crowing in unholy glee over the downfall of their enemies.

Ultimately, all protesting and counter-protesting comes down to one painful fact:  we are powerless and not in control and can’t make other people do our will.

But what all sides seem to miss is this:  the problem isn’t them or me, it’s them and me.

And the solution is a radical ego-deflation and ego-collapse where we fall backwards into the arms of a God who gives grace to folks at the bottom of their lives.

There is a solution!

My Dad the Unlikely Veteran

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2016 by jcwill5

somuchowedMy dad was the kind of man who always flew the flag on every patriotic holiday throughout the year.

He taught me how to honor the flag, to fold it correctly, and initiated me into a shared heritage of proud American men.

He proudly saved all his military related records and pictures, which I got to review in the last couple years of his life on earth.

Interestingly and ironically, he was raised in a German-heritage faith group and in a pacifist family.

He even had an older brother who was a conscientious objector during WW2–which was a pretty rare and unpopular to do.

Going into the military was thus a real break with his religious upbringing and probably not comfortable for his parents.

So, in his memory, I thought it would be appropriate to recount his service in the Korean War on this Veteran’s Day.

His Interesting Military Job

It was common in those days, when you got a low draft number and knew you were going to be drafted, to volunteer before your number came up.

The advantage was you could pick which branch of the armed forces in which to serve.

So my dad, living in a seaport town of Philadelphia,  joined the U.S. Navy.

During their version of boot camp, he excelled at the rifle range and there was talk of him being trained as a sniper.   Which was not at all what he had in mind!

Taking matters in hand, he went down to the Philadelphia Naval School of Music and auditioned as a Sousaphone player and upright bass player.

He must have done well because they recruited him on the spot.

He also did well on another front–he got married to my mom during one of his longer shore leave breaks.

His Korean War Service

My dad was assigned to the U.S.S. Antietam as part of the aircraft carrier band, received the rank of Petty Officer, 2nd class,

He looked quite dashing in his sparkling white navy uniform–and it wasn’t too hard to see my mom’s admiring glances in pictures from those early married days.

My dad and his mates played on ship and on shore, for informal officers’ events and formal ceremonies, switching instruments to play marches or jazz numbers as the occasion required.

It was a point of pride that they were exempt from watches, got to eat in the officers’ mess, and enjoyed other such privileges on ship.

His carrier was based out of Bremerton, WA.   From the souvenirs and pictures he brought home, there were stops in San Diego, Hawaii, and Japanese ports.

Most of his carrier’s action was in the Sea of Japan, from which their jets flew sorties over North Korea and returned.

The most gruesome experiences involved crashes on deck and, on one occasion at least, someone losing literally losing their head in one such accident.

He laughingly told me about running up and down the narrow stairs on ship two steps at time, missing a step now and then, and slamming his knees down hard.

His one “war injury” was therefore water on both knees and resulting knee troubles later in life.

His Fondest Memory

But the story he told with most pride was how their band honored the crews of the boats that resupplied the carrier.

They bring their “tubs” or “tin cans” alongside the carrier, and would move large crates of items from their ship to the supply deck opening of the carrier.

These normally unrecognized men doing thankless jobs were serenaded by his band and, years later, some of them wrote to say how much they appreciated this unrequested, unexpected concert.

Honoring the normally under-honored in small but significant ways.

Bringing along outstanding music on ship brought a little piece of home to men serving their country far from home.

Yes, those who were exposed to the greatest personal danger and served on the front lines rightfully deserve our highest recognition.

But there were ten guys standing behind each combat soldier, bringing supplies and manning radios and handling logistics and keeping records and, on some occasions, playing live music to uplift and comfort them during a bleak and cheerless war.

My dad was one of them.

And, on this Veteran’s Day, I honor his memory and the service of all those like him–unlikely veterans!