Monday, October 6, 2008

"Unprayed Desires" revisted

In August of 2007, when I wrote on the subject of "unprayed desires," I was speaking of the fulfilled dreams of seminary and pastoring. Now, I have an entirely different reason to revisit the subject. Again, a deep seated, secret desire is being fulfilled by the Lord. One so personal, so valuable and so intimate that once again God shows how well He knows me. As a result, I am left in awe of his loyal love.

It's not easy to explain, but ever since I was discharged from the U.S. Navy back in December of 1988, I've regretted it. I tried to re-enlist back in the early 90's during Operation Desert Storm, but because of the nature of my discharge (medical, though honorable) the Navy did not want me back. I've continued to read about U.S. naval developments along the way, and maintained a membership with the U.S. Naval Institute. Since having followed a "call" to Christian ministry, I've entertained the possibility of a Navy Chaplaincy career. That inclination moved in and out of fancy for me over the years, always tickling the "desire bone," but not enough to commit to following it. Two things then seemed to place that desire well out of reach.

1. The Navy prefers that the new chaplain be between the ages of 21 and 38 at the time of appointment. This seemed to count me out since I was likely going to be 40 years old (or order) when graduating from seminary.

2. My appointment to pastor a church appears to have made that choice for me was well. Pastoring a church is NOT something that one does while they're waiting to do something else. It is NOT an entry level position. The Church of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of Christian ministry. All other possibilities support its mission in one manner of another.

For the above two reasons, I thought military chaplaincy (specifically the U.S. Navy) was quickly turning into one of those unfulfilled dreams that's just a part of life. As one gets older, there is much that goes unfulfilled; many goals that go unmet; many dreams that go unrealized. That's not cynicism; that's life. By God's grace though, many desires ARE fulfilled; many goals ARE met, and many dreams ARE realized. Not all are, but many are. For this reason, we must remain thankful for those dreams that are reached that God was under no obligation to grant. The reality is that some dreams go unreached, and question is whether one will be content about that, or will they obsess over "the one that got away." I had grown content that the dream of naval chaplaincy might never be realized; my military appetite left unappeased.

Then, at the National Night Out for the city of Fate last year, Fire Department Chief Sean Fay approached me about the possibility of serving as the chaplain for the Fate Fire & Rescue. I agreed, though not fully understanding what I was entering into. Having now served the department for nearly a year, I see now that God was mindful of my previous desires stated above. With those longings in mind, He arranged for me to serve in a capacity that not only closely parallels that experience I was seeking in Navy, but also accommodates the present appointment to Woodcreek Bible Church as well.

What's more? Chaplaincy for Fate Fire & Rescue fulfills several desires at once: (1) my military "itch" is scratched, (2) it opens doors for community ministry, and (3) it involves formal training and connection to a broader guild (echoed in the military as well). Later this month, the city of Fate is sending me to attend the Federation of Fire Chaplains Annual Conference. This formalized training offers not only the basic training for the chaplaincy certificate, but also the added benefit of being interconnected with the wider "brotherhood" of fire chaplains. The conference program even entails a tour of the U.S. Naval Chaplains' School (amazing!).

God was clearly aware of this desire all along, and like a loving father keeping some Christmas presents concealed until the right time, waited patiently to spring this blessing on me. I'm humbled by how wisely, and completely He knew to fulfill my "unprayed desires." May I wear the uniform with pride, serve my department and city with humble passion, and remain thankful for God's loving care each time I put on the chaplain's uniform (right after I pinch myself again).

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