It is 2:30 on a Friday afternoon and I am racing…I mean, driving a little quickly, from Modesto to Sacramento in busy afternoon traffic. I had to get to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) where, at 4:30 that afternoon, my son, my only son, was being sworn into service with the United States Army National Guard. At a time when our nation was fighting wars on three fronts, my boy was choosing to enlist voluntarily! This, after he had already been accepted to a perfectly good college in North Carolina with scholarships! How did we get here?!
Well, he was a quiet child…no, seriously, he really was quiet, and shy, with an amazingly long attention span, even as a toddler. The boy would play with his Lincoln Logs, and watch movies with his dog Sparky, and you would not hear a peep out of him for hours. How, you ask, did he go from being that quiet, shy child, to being a soldier?! Well, I was asking God the saaaaame thing!
He was in eighth grade when he decided he would join the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp, (JROTC), in his freshman year of high school. He excelled at JROTC for all four years of high school, moving up through the ranks and earning all kinds of accolades. This was truly his “natural bent” and he had found his niche at a crucial time in his teenage years.
I remember sitting at one ceremony where he was receiving some very distinguished lifetime award, and I did not even know what the award was or what it meant. I think I was just in denial, and waiting for him to get over this whole army thing. He didn’t.
His senior year of high school he came to talk to me about his plans for the future and began the conversation with,
“Now mom, don’t be mad…”
What kind of a way is that to start a conversation about anybody’s future?! I felt seven more gray hairs pop out of my head in an instant. He goes on to tell me he planned to delay going to college, to train to become a combat medic, an angel of the battlefield, with the Army National Guard; and… he… is… excited! I had never seen him this animated about anything that required excessive exertion of mind, or body, unless JROTC was involved. So, here he was, enthusiasm bubbling though his sentences, and excitement practically coming out his pores. I, on the other hand, felt like I was about to experience a full-blown, off-the-charts, panic attack.
One thing emerges with startling clarity as I look back; that I instantly remembered a story in the Bible about God calling to Abraham one day, and giving him the following instruction,
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering…” Genesis 22:2
Scripture does not record Abraham responding with anything but obedience, but he and I are not all that close. Can I be honest with you for a minute and tell you I was looking at my son, but in my heart I was asking God
“What have You done?!”
Nevertheless, some strange person, who sounded exactly like me, responded to my son with affirmation and encouragement. The ‘traitor’ in me told him that all those times when I said my greatest desire for him was to become all that God had meant for him to be, no matter what that was, that I really meant it. I would never be disappointed with my son as long as he loved God with all his heart and followed His purpose, no matter how scary that purpose was for his mother. And so with no warning, and without any pomp or circumstance, my little kitchen in Ripon, California was transformed into Abraham’s “land of Moriah”.
I have come to believe that we all walk the hill to Abraham’s Mount Moriah experience at one time or the other; especially if we are truly serious about having an authentic, active and vibrant relationship with the Living God. One day you will be in the middle of some gray-hair-producing situation, and with startling clarity you will realize that your belief in the One True God is being tested right then, at that moment. First, you will not be alone; God will be right there, with the peace and strength you will need survive and thrive.
“…I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth…He abides with you and will be in you.” John 14:16,17
Also, in that moment you get to choose what to believe and how to act. I believe God loves my son even more that I could ever love him, and so I choose to face my fears with faith and trust that “God’s got him”.
Three years later my son remains active in military service and cannot wait to be sent to the battlefield. Each time he is put on standby to deploy, I make the journey back to my own Mount Moriah again. I am considering becoming a tour guide; have a little souvenir stand; sell t-shirts and postcards.
So here’s the thing, I have imagined every horrific possibility that comes with having my only son choose to become a soldier and go off to war, but still, this extraordinary peace remains. Life on planet earth was not the beginning of all things and it is not the end of all things. No matter what happens to my boy as he serves in the United States Army National Guard, God Himself will be with him, and with me.
“…for I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:12
Meantime, I pray, I trust, I still keep trying to learn that crazy phonetic alphabet army moms are supposed to know, and I…just live the thing.