Standing in front of me, I could see my face in the reflection of his aviator sunglasses. Even though we shared the same height, his muscular physique and intimidating posture was enough for me to shake in my poorly laced boots.
“Your boot laces are a mess, Lieutenant!” he shouted in a deep voice with a grim look on his face. Looking down, I saw my boot laces, which I attempted to tie for the first time earlier, were undone. Quickly, I attempted to lace them correctly.
“I didn’t tell you to tie those laces, Lieutenant!” the drill sergeant shouted back. “For now on, you only do what I tell you to do!”
For anyone who joins the military and goes through boot camp, or in my case Officer Training School in the Air Force, learning how to tie boot laces, roll socks, and endure the wrath of training instructors are challenges any new soldier, sailor, or wingman faces in the first few days of their arrival. And while it can be overwhelming as you seek to affirm you made the right decision to join the military, somehow you find strength in a place you never did before.
What provides this strength after we find ourselves believing we’ve taken on a task too larger than we can handle? How do we manage the feeling of doubt and regret after we took actions based upon leaps of faith?
During my 5 week experience at Officer Training School, I found myself doubting that I had the ability to graduate from the intense mental and physical program. I also doubted that I could make it through another day of screaming drill sergeants, minimal sleep, and the academic and physical rigors of the program.
From the single mother with two children who decides to pursue her call and go back to college later in life. To the young man who leaves his home and travels to Los Angeles with the hopes of exploring his call to become an actor. Much like Peter who began to have doubts after he stepped out of a boat and began to doubt he could really walk on water, we must find re-affirmation in our calls when we find ourselves experiencing turbulent waters after we have left the safe shores of familiarity.
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up,” writes Anne Lamott.
It was my friends who through their words of encouragement and support helped me graduate from Officer Training School. But it was also a conversation with another drill sergeant on my third day when I was at my lowest that helped me get through. And it’s a conversation which I found myself recalling every time I needed hope and I needed to be reminded of why I shouldn’t give up.
“There is a reason we are called to take on new challenges in life,” he said sternly and confidently. “But we don’t do these things all on our own. I am not much of a religious man. But I believe when God calls us to do difficult things in unfamiliar places, God also provides us the strength to overcome those challenges even when we have doubts. I just don’t believe in giving up. In fact, that’s how I define faith.”
May you find strength in places where you need it. And in the words of writer A. A. Milne, may you discover you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.