I had the rare privilege today to attend the retirement of my friend from 22 years of Marine Corps service. Gunnery Sergeant Steve Crawford ended his watch today and passed the guard on to others that will take his place. It was sobering at times, poignant at times, and quite moving at times. I, of course, couldn’t help but see the correlations between this earthly metaphor and the higher calling we who call ourselves “born-again” Christians are commissioned into.
I was struck by the overpowering bond that connected the soldiers today, regardless of rank, ethnicity, gender or experience. Their values were absolute and absolutely shared: Country, Flag, President, Loyalty, Honor, etc. This retiring soldier was honored for his dedication to those values and for the role he played in freedom, peace and security for America.
I was most impacted by the sense of identity that is derived from being part of such a brotherhood. I felt a profound sense of loss on behalf of this soldier who was leaving this nearly quarter-century of identity, respect and comaraderie. A person in this position must have something of value, of purpose, of nobility to transition into after such a meaningful fulfillment of identity. Yet, how difficult it must be to reintegrate back into society and find any meaning in life, sitting at a desk, pushing paper, all the while, nostalgic for the defining moments of danger and valor.
For the typical Marine, there is no other identity. A t-shirt I saw today summed it up, “Not as lean, Not as mean, Still a Marine!” They may occupy other roles in life, but there is one identity that means more than all the others.
As civilians, we do not really understand the intensity of Marine Corps identity. Yet, isn’t there something deep inside us as well, as we sit at our desks and push our paper, that whispers, “You were made for more than this!”
I have a job. I have a career. Yes, there were the days when conquest and success were all about growing my business. Yet, as my Heavenly Father invited me to yield up to Him, one by one, the things that held power in my life, I found my career passion taking it’s rightful place in the background as my identity as a soldier of the Kingdom of Heaven began to grow. And, as I observed today in an outward metaphor, this core identity trumps every other attempt at identity in my life.
As a result, the strongest sense of brotherhood that I feel is with other Christians who are also living in this heightened sense of identity, where nothing else matters, only to live in fulness as His workmanship, armor on, weapon in hand, faces set to the horizon as we each dispatch under the marching orders we’ve been given. What life! What zeal! What immortality! To know that the true lives we lead have eternal impact in the Kingdom of Heaven; that, my friends, is the life abundant! That is what united people together even as they were one by one martyred for Jesus Christ-that is what set their resolve. Brothers, our cause is the most noble, the most pure, the most consequential; there is no other destiny! There is no other life!