"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." Isaiah 40:29
Weeks of training led me to my graduation day in boot camp (Air Force.) I had left (at home) 4 kids and a husband while I was away. I missed them terribly. I'd never been away from my kids before, ever. Boot camp was a little easier for me than others, considering that I was older than most of the others who had just come out of high school, and considering that I was married with 4 children already, and had already been through a lot of life's "boot camp." The TI's didn't scare me nor did they change me. But I still learned a lot of valuable lessons, and there's one I will never forget.
I had to run a mile and a half in less than 12 minutes in order to graduate boot camp. I have never been a good runner, and I certainly didn't become a better runner after having 4 kids. I was nervous about that run test, because I knew that if I failed, I would be recycled back into a flight who was a couple of weeks behind mine, thus, having to wait that much longer to see my family...my children.. whom I missed most of all.
My TI knew that I was worried. We'd had more than one private conversation in his office about my children & worries of not graduating on time. I had done well to get through those long weeks of training... but sometimes, usually at night time, when our day would slow down & we'd have time to think, I'd cry to see my kids. I'd cry just to hear their voices, because we were lucky if we even got a 5 minute phone conversation to home once a week. At one point, my TI called me to his office and offered to give me some extra phone time to call my kids. As bad as I wanted to take the offer, I declined. I told him that I knew everyone else missed their families just as much, and that I just didn't feel right about getting special privileges to call my kids. He said my situation was different, but honored my feelings on the matter.
The day of the run had approached. I was on a track, with hundreds of others running the same track and the same test. We had 6 laps to run to reach a mile and a half. We wore ankle devices that counted our laps because it's just impossible to make sure that many people run their required laps at the same time.
So I ran. I was in tears by about the 3rd or 4th lap. When you have to run that long with a short time limit it hurts your body. My face was red and I was ready to give up. But I kept picturing my kids faces in my mind, and did my best to keep pushing forward, knowing that I could see them if I just passed this test.
My TI was watching me as I ran every lap, but I didn't know it. As I crossed the line and ended my 5th lap, I saw my TI running right beside me from the corner of my eye. He could see that I was about ready to give up. He could see that my body was tired & I'd become too weary to finish. He began to yell at me, "Come on Cameron!!! You can do this!!! Come on!! I am not going to let you fail! You are going to see your kids!!!.... " His encouraging words was just enough to keep me going, because my body had already given out on me. His words kicked my will power in, and my mind finished that run.
He did this with me all the way around the track until I finished that last lap. He could've been watching and running with any of the others. But he didn't. He watched me, and he ran out onto the track to run with me and only me. I passed my run test in just over 11 minutes.
We all get this way spiritually. We become weary and ready to give up. Our bodies get tired. Our minds get worn down by the enemy, and some of us even quit. But God is watching each and every one of us and counting every lap we run. None of us are needles in the haystack on this track. He sees everyone of us and he knows where every one of us are. Some of us just stop listening for his voice when we get tired. What would we all be if we really KNEW that he's running right beside us and pushing us along?
He never gives up on us. He never leaves us. He KNOWS we get tired. He KNOWS the enemy attacks us. But he believes in us just like my TI believed in me. Even when our feet are dragging the pavement and we're ready to fall over and quit, he still believes in us. He won't run this race for us, because it's a choice we all have to make for ourselves. But he'll run with us, and he won't give up on us.
There is an end to this race, and only God knows when. YES, you're going to get tired! You're going to want to quit! The devil is going to do all that he can to wear you DOWN. But keep running! Keep pushing forward!
The day before my graduation, we ran what was called the "Airman's Run." You'd think that after all those weeks of NO sleep, constant training, and running a mile & a half in under 12 minutes just the day before, we'd be too exhausted to run TWO miles for the airman's run. The mental exhaustion of boot camp alone should've been enough to make us quit. This run was special though. We ran with our flights in a steady formation and sang jodies all the way, and towards the end of that run, our families were waiting on the sidelines, cheering & hollering for us as we rolled in... heads held high, smiles on our faces, pride swelled in our hearts, and renewed strength! We weren't tired because just knowing that everything we'd gone through was worth it, and knowing that we'd finally made it gave us back strength we didn't know we had.
I can just imagine that THIS is what the end of our race will feel like one day. Our strength was renewed by the beautiful sounds of our jodies and the beautiful sounds of our loved ones on the sidelines. All the weeks of training & tears were behind us...we had made it to the finish line! We finally got to march across the "Bomb Run" the next morning as we graduated. It was the first time we'd been allowed to even see the bomb run during our weeks of training. Heaven is waiting for us to march across its gates too! We dreamed for weeks about seeing the bomb run for the first time. That is an airman's goal, to see that bomb run for the first time the morning of their graduation. It's sacred ground at Lackland AFB.
Don't stop running! Don't give up! God is with us. God is in us! The heavenly Bomb Run is our final destination, and we're just passing through this world! This isn't going to last forever! Heaven is forever. The WORD is forever. GOD is forever. Push through your tears! Push through that burn! Push through your pain! Push through your sweat and KNOW that GOD won't let you fail if YOU DON'T WANT TO FAIL! I passed my run by the mercy of my TI's voice, but only because I DIDN'T WANT TO FAIL!
Keep RUNNING!! You WILL BE RENEWED! DON'T GIVE UP!
Devotional reading: all of Isaiah 40 (It'll bless you to read about what a MIGHTY GOD WE SERVE!)
The Bomb Run & My flights in the distance, getting to ready to set foot on it!
"And the Lord said unto satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thy hand. So satan went forth from the presence of the Lord."
It's happened many a times over the years to me in my dreams. I get this feeling of darkness come over me, and I try to shout for Jesus & my mouth will either turn to squishy jello so that I can't talk, or "Dark" (as I like to call the dark figures) just muzzles it everytime I try to shout out the name of Jesus. It's literally the feeling that someone has their hand over my mouth. In the past, it has scared me, and I've woke up in sweat, tears, and just plain feeling totally disoriented. I've always ended up being able to call on Jesus' name, but it is always a struggle before the nightmare is over. Last night's visit was a little different then all the other times though. Dark came & tried to scare me in my dream again. I don't know what the dream was about. I only remember that I was walking, and Dark tried to scare me by using the surprise tactic. It literally jumped in my face, short of saying "BOO!" to scare me. I didn't panic this time though. I wasn't even scared, not even a little... I wasn't even startled by the "surprise" tactic. (And I knew right when it showed up that it was the same familiar, evil spirits that have taunted me in my dreams before.)
I simply stopped walking right in my tracks. I looked it straight in the "face", and I started LAUGHING. It wasn't just any laugh either. It was a deep down in my tummy ache kinda' laugh. I simply found it absolutely amusing that Dark tried to scare me. And it just stared back at me, quite taken with my response. Dark seemed confused, with a shocked & defeated look on its "face." For a change, Dark didn't know how to react to ME. For a change, Dark's sly attempt to creep up on me unexpectedly & rattle my soul was an epic fail.
When I was done laughing, I said, "I rebuke you"... and at that moment, Dark tried to muzzle my mouth again, like it had done so many times in the past. But it didn't work this time. I just pushed passed the muzzle, and yelled so loud, "I rebuke you in Jesus name!" that I literally said it out loud, and literally woke myself up mid sentence, in just enough time to hear myself yelling it out loud. I wasn't crying when I woke up. I wasn't sweating or scared, not one bit. I was in total peace, and quite smug about it, to say the least... so I closed my eyes, said a quiet thank you to Jesus, and went back to sleep, peacefully...
Last night was a defining moment in my walk with God. Nevermind the years of anguish that are behind me! Nevermind the unknown future that's ahead of me! Nevermind those spirits who have taunted me since I was a little girl, showing themselves in dreams and visions, showing themselves in this world & the people around me...something changed forever in that moment of laughter. Dark will never be able to shake me again.
Maybe I laughed at Dark because I've seen it so many times before, that it's become laughable that Dark thinks it can still scare me. Maybe I laughed because Dark looked so pitiful trying to scare me with its surprise tactic... almost as if it were cute, the way my 2 year old would be cute if he had tried to scare me in the same way.
I know though, that Dark can never scare me again. I remember as a child, "stomping" on the devil, by stomping my feet on the ground, and proclaiming that I was stomping on the devil. It was an act of innocence & "pretending" as a child. But now... now it's just real. Dark has no power over me. Maybe Dark is a cute 2 year old, next to the super strong tower I call my God... who, resides, in me.
I'm not afraid of you anymore Dark. Your evil shadows linger in this world, I know. You tear people down, you tear their worlds a part, their families, their lives... and you've even been known to assist them in their suicide. I've heard your stories from others before... I know I'm not the only one you've taunted out there. But you've been harrassing me for as far back as I can remember. I must be something special, because you've invested an awful lot of time into me.
You can't touch me. You've never been able to touch me. You can't scare me anymore... I'll laugh in your face. This world you devour can't have me. I won't dress like it. I won't talk like it. I won't think like it. I won't live like it. I won't die like it. I'm not yours to have. I never have been.
People look at me and think that my "religion" makes me follow a bunch of rules to be a part of it. I look at people and think that this world makes them follow a bunch of rules to be a part of it. I'm not following any man's rules. I'm just the spitting image of my Father, like any child. And this world, this world that is being led around like puppets on a string as they live in darkness & their lives are torn a part & being taken away... is the spitting image of Dark.
Dark can't have us all. Because we all have a choice. And God's mercy is greater than the shadows who linger in this world. He's coming ... he's scooping up his people, and Dark, you just can't do anything about it. There aren't enough demons in hell to overpower the power that's in me. There never will be. There never was. He's always been with me. He's been in me since I asked Him in as a little girl, and He's never left.
I'm pushing through your barriers at the speed of sound now, and Dark, you just can't stop me. You will never be able to stop me. Your attempts are laughable. You're nothing. Nothing. Nothing. You're nothing.
In deep prayer one evening, I prayed with the burden of the world heavy on my heart. I wept for people I knew and even people I didn't know. As I prayed I thought about God's special calling on my life and how I have not moved forward in my particular calling like I knew I needed to. I began to wonder why as I prayed for these people, who always give me deep anguish inside when I think of their souls... I wondered why I loved these people so much that everytime I prayed it was always them I was praying for, never even thinking to pray for myself...why, when I read the Bible it's always for them, never for what I can get out the Word for myself.
Then it hit me like a ton a bricks and I began to sob, "God, I don't love MYSELF!" I repeated this a few times, "I don't love myself God! I don't know why, help me to love myself so that I can love others God!" Of course I loved others, but I can't be fully effective on my calling or winning souls when I don't even love my own soul enough to save it. That is a bold statement, I know. But it is so true for so many of us. It is so easy to want to "save the world" and send everyone to heaven. Anyone who has any kind of burden for souls knows the feeling. It is so easy to get excited when someone we know says they're coming to church with us Sunday morning or we see them at an altar giving their hearts to God. It is so easy to answer their endless questions & biblical debates on scripture, and so easy to point out the steps to salvation to them when we're trying to win their soul over to God. It's so easy to come before God for them in prayer and failing to even make sure our own hearts are clean. It's so easy to go through those motions.
When it sank in that I didn't love myself, I meditated for a moment and just waited on God to speak. I felt a tug on my heart that said, just pick up your Bible and open it. I opened to Deut 20 and read the verses (below.) As I read I thought about the time I spent and the things I learned in the military. I pictured the chaplains giving us all a "pep talk" and then our leading officers coming in to "be real" with us before we walk onto the perspective battle field, as I read this scenerio below.
The priest encourages the Israelites to not be afraid because God is with them and will fight for them. But even after the priest said, GOD IS WITH THEM and GOD IS GOING TO FIGHT FOR THEM, the officers still stood up and said, "whoa... hang on a minute though..." They said if ANY man has a home he's not dedicated back home, a vinyard he's planted and not eaten from, or a woman he's engaged to and not married, to GO HOME and do those things lest they die in battle and another man get to do those things for them. Lastly, they said, who is fearful and weak hearted out there? If you are afraid and weak hearted, go home now so that you don't make your fellow brothers in arms afraid and weak hearted.
I understood this concept well, knowing that when troop morale is low, in any individual troop member, it can affect the entire flight/platoon, and low troop morale can affect the entire mission! God was with them, as he is with us, but without our FAITH in Him, we will discourage ourselves and lose a battle before it's even begun. These officers knew that if any of those men went to battle without their personal affairs in order, the troop was better off fighting without them. Distracted, fearful and weak hearted men would have just brought the entire platoon down in the battle. Likewise, if we don't have our own spiritual homes in order, we can't fight a battle either.
If we don't love ourselves enough to feed our own souls or pray for our own souls, then we can't be full effective in a battle. It's not enough to let the preacher feed us. It's not enough to let ourselves be carried on the prayers of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It's not enough to love others and get out there and witness. We have to love our own souls enough to save them first, while also being willing to lose our own soul to the cross. I realized that I don't love myself at all if I don't maintain my own soul.
I could witness to a world of people, and still lose my own soul. I can't claim to love people like God loves them if I don't even love my own soul enough to save it, feed it, nourish it, and contiously keep my own heart in sync with God's. I knew that God didn't want me to go forward yet in my calling because he wanted my soul to be saved to. Yes, he would be with me and he would save the souls I fought for in battle... but God doesn't want us losing our own souls too. He doesn't want us affecting the morale of our wingmen either. We have to all be strong hearted as a unit in battle.
We are the body of Christ, one BIG moving giant in a battle, and every limb needs to be completely effective and stable & strong in a battle. That takes every member "eating all their veggies" before stepping out onto the battle field.
Don't forget to love yourself enough to save your own soul too. Until you can effectively win your own soul, how you can win others?
"When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
2And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
3And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;
4For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
5And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
6And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it.
7And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
8And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart."