Okay, I’ll admit I’ve never actually been in the military myself, but trust me, I’ve sat through enough war movies with my husband to know a thing or two about Boot Camp. For those of you less familiar with this sort of stuff I’m going to give you the basics, so sit up straight, throw your shoulders back, suck in your stomach and pay attention.
We begin where most of the war films I’ve seen always begin, with a busload of recruits arriving on the base where they’re met by their new BFF, the Drill Instructor. He immediately starts barking at them about how he doesn’t care where they came from or why they enlisted, and he tells them it’s not his job to be their "mama”; it’s his job to turn them into soldiers (or marines, or airmen or sailors, depending upon the movie). Then they all get a burr haircut.
The next half-hour or so of the movie is devoted to the recruits’ difficult and sometimes painful adjustment to the rigid rules of military life – the crack-of-dawn reveille, the inspections, the marching drills. We watch as they climb ropes, and scale walls and crawl through muddy fields on their bellies. Oddly enough, they’re not doing this to escape. It’s just a part of Basic Training. And through it all we watch them develop discipline and teamwork and respect.
In every film there is at least one recruit who balks at all these rules and regulations. He doesn’t like being told what to do, and his belligerent, confrontational attitude puts him squarely at odds with the Drill Instructor, who has a zero tolerance for disobedience, and is constantly ordering the troublemaker to "Drop and give me twenty!” This is followed by an impassioned speech about courage and duty and honor, and about how all this training that seems so pointless now may one day save the soldier’s life, or the lives of his fellow comrades. Inevitably, not long afterward the platoon finds itself in a deadly real life combat situation, and it’s this very fellow – all buff from "dropping and giving twenty” – who ends up saving the day. Turns out the Drill Instructor was right all along. By doing those same seemingly monotonous training drills over and over and over again they had become almost second nature, so that when our young soldier was under fire, when he was in danger, when it really counted, he didn’t have to stop to think about what to do. He knew what to do.
You know, there’s a lot to be said for a disciplined approach to our relationship with God too. No, I’m not talking about robotic meaningless ritual. I’m talking about setting aside a specific time every day for Bible study, prayer and fellowship with God; so that when we are suddenly tried or tested we don’t have to flail about for a scripture that will bring us comfort or assurance. One comes to us instinctively. And when faced with a thorny problem, there’s no need to fly around the room frantically looking for signs of God’s presence. We constantly live in His presence.
Sounds easy enough, right? So why do I find myself identifying more with the stubborn new recruit than with the honorable soldier he ultimately became? I mean, it’s not like I’m new to this stuff. And yet I’m the girl who invariably puts off doing her five-day "daily” Bible until the night before our group meets. And instead of having a decent, meaningful conversation with God on a regular basis, more often than not my prayer life is little more than a bunch of panicky Morse code "SOS” distress signals.
Hebrews 12: 10-11 says, "God disciplines us for our own good that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
You know what I think? I think I need to go back to Boot Camp. I need to haul myself out of bed early every morning and have some serious Bible time. I need a routine inspection of my time-wasters and my thoughts. I need for the ultimate Drill Instructor to get right in my face and shout, "Drop (to your knees) and give me twenty (minutes of uninterrupted prayer!)” Yep. That’s exactly what I need. I know it may be tough, but I’m up for the challenge. Anybody want to enlist along with me? (Don’t worry. We’re skipping the burr haircut.)