What cause could you care about so much that you were willing to push yourself beyond your previous limitations for its sake? What could drive you to grow and labor longer, harder and with more dedication than any pursuit had witnessed before it? What is it that could really incite you to ignore pain and fatigue, fight through discouragement and create unforeseen solutions to gargantuan problems that threatened to keep the goal out of reach? Is there something you could be that passionate about? And would that passion be worthy of your total focus? By this I mean: Is that passion worthy of the sacrifice, pain, growth and change you will undergo in pursuing it?
Some "passions" are not worthy of such devotion. Certain destructive "passions" that we contrive for ourselves degrade our life experience rather than elevate it. One can have a constructive passion for excellence in a given field such as sports, medicine, art or literature. However, we can also have a very destructive passion for fame, wealth or hedonistic gratification. If indeed, though, the focus of one's passion is affirmed by peers and by conscience as a worthy one, it's refreshing to have such focus in life.
As Naomi and I were running this morning, we spoke about the course of our life right now, and how fulfilling it is to have such laser-like focus. While trying to stop short of presuming that God will grant success in my field of pursuit (you're never there until you are), we reflected together on the years of our marriage, seeing it as having a preparatory trajectory up to this opportunity with the U.S. Navy. Even beyond that, it's a pleasure to recall my previous Navy experiences in 1988.
While my time enlisted at the Naval base in Orlando, FL was disappointing from a military view, the triumphs stand out from a ministry perspective. It started when my parents gave me a compact Bible to take to boot camp with me, which was among the few personal effects you could take with you into "boot." Shortly after entering "boot," the Company Commander (CC) was, on a particular morning, assigning responsibilities to various recruits within the company. They appointed an RCPO (Recruit Chief Petty Officer), a Master-at-Arms, plus Port and Starboard watch leaders.
At the same time, the CC demanded to know if any among us was "very religious." Standing at attention in our barracks, I couldn't believe my ears. This was the kind of moment I had heard about in church growing up, but never thought I would witness. Completely intimidated by the CC's intensity, I kept silent for a moment. When he belted out the question again, I heard myself say aloud, "I am, Sir." Though CC Redmond had been at the opposite end of the bay, within a blink he was an inch away from my face. His fiery voice demanded again, "Ott, are you very religious?!" My reply came from a resolve that I do not normally possess, and therefore cannot boast for exerting it then. I answered, "Yes, Sir. I am a Christian." With that, CC Redmond glared at me and barked the order, "Seamen Recruit Ott, you are now this company's Religious Petty Officer. You will find out the religious needs of your fellow recruits, and get them to the appropriate chapel service that they need. You will conduct meetings and devotion times as needed by your company. Is that understood?!"
As the Religious Petty Officer, I mustered recruits on time and marched them to the appropriate chapel service for them whether they were Roman Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. I conducted Bible studies for my fellow recruits, even approaching our CC for use of the lounge in our barracks long before we had (as a company) earned the right to use it. In essence, 20 years ago I entered the Navy and was immediately made the "chaplain" for my peers.
In literary analysis, this is called an "inclusio." It happens when a passage begins and ends with the same phrase to serve as book-ends for the literary unit. It binds tightly together the lines and verses in between, forming a unified whole. Psalm 150 is a good example of this in how it has "Praise the Lord!" at the beginning and the end.
In February of 1988 I was appointed Religious Petty Officer for Company C088 in the U.S. Navy. Now, I am candidating for re-entry into the Navy as a Chaplain. This forms a "life inclusio," giving meaning and unity to the 20 years in between. This is cause for great passion and drive toward an exciting calling. It's a worthy passion. Although many challenges and obstacles have been and are being met, with pain and sacrifice requiring endurance, this inclusio fuels a passion that is energizing and fulfilling.