I can endure almost anything as a mom because I have been U. S. Army trained.
Have you ever been 18 and gullible? Well, I certainly was. Besides being naïve, I thought I was very smart, which made it too easy for the recruiter who signed me up.
Smart people are not dumb enough to sign up for the army.
Of course, my recruiter kept this revelation from me. In fact, he kept a lot of realities from me. He made it sound like I would be spending four years in a sort of club where we would do some calisthenics and play basketball in gym skirts and tennis sneakers (doesn’t that sound like fun to you? It did to me, too).
But people do not enter the army to have fun.
People enter the army to become soldiers, and soldiers must be trained to endure the hardships and horrors of war. This means a dedicated team of individuals take eight weeks or so and put a bunch of wimpy, whiny people through SO MUCH TORMENT that every other life experience seems easy by comparison.
I didn’t realize this until I was sitting on some bleachers in South Carolina, feeling so sick at heart I was sick to my stomach. I was being stripped of everything; my civilian clothes, my make-up, my glasses (the army gave me what were referred to as “BC glasses”–the “BC” standing for “Birth Control” because they made you look so repulsive), and my personal identity.
This was definitely no spa experience.
Before the sun peeked out from under his covers we were clothed from head to toe in camo and had shined the floors and scrubbed the toilets. We earned our morning coffee by doing 40 push-ups, and then we ran back to stand in formation so we could do more push-ups, and sit-ups (by the end of training we could do 120 sit-ups at one time–talk about abs of steel!), and grass drills and run two miles.
Besides all this, there were the miles and miles of marches (really runs, since we were all women five and a half feet and under and our sergeants were all six feet tall with long legs). Most of the time we brought everything along; all of our gear was either strapped to our bodies, carried in our arms, or hanging on our backs. This wasn’t too bad, except when we trudged through deep sand. Then one step forward meant two steps backward and the sweat poured from under our helmets.
Mud was our constant companion. We belly-flopped, sloshed, and slithered on, through, and into it.
We were cussed at and picked on. We were told we would never succeed. We were made to stick in there even when we were sick as dogs (a respiratory infection went through us, but no one was allowed out of duty unless she had a fever of 103 degrees or higher).
Oh, and we learned to MOVE and move fast. We could do almost anything in five minutes or less, including dressing, eating, and relieving ourselves. In just 30 seconds our entire platoon of 50 women could fall out of formation, make an entire uniform change, and fall back into formation without leaving a trace anywhere (which is a minor miracle).
I emerged from the ordeal a changed person.
I had been baked, broiled, and barbecued by what women’s libbers call “equality” and I was DONE.
It was a man’s world, this soldiering thing, and the men could have it.
All the training I received made this glaringly clear. You and I know that women are awesomely gifted and amazingly capable. But they are not men, and never will be, no matter how many college courses are taught or how many books are written or how many movies are made. Even with all of that muscle building, I was still going to commit suicide if I ever threw a live grenade. I just could not muster enough upper body strength to hurl that three-pound bomb far enough so that the shrapnel would not kill me.
I only passed basic training because a male sergeant threw my grenades for me (the army was desperate for smart people who were dumb enough to sign up).
So I finally graduated and returned home on leave, this time to my husband of all of 10 weeks (we had married just two weeks before I entered). How I longed to start our lives right, to be his bride at home, to be treated like a lady instead of a “grunt.”
But I couldn’t quit. I had signed on the dotted line, I had taken an oath.
So I acted like a good soldier and kept on, albeit with only half of my heart. The other half was in another world, at home as the wife of my husband.
Within a year I was lying in the recovery room of an army hospital waiting to receive my first tiny baby. It was something I desperately wanted but was utterly unprepared for. I was so afraid I would mess everything up.
I had been trained to be a good worker, a soldier, a linguist, but I had never, ever been purposely trained to be a mother.
Even the men I knew were better at mothering than I was.
Thankfully, God has people everywhere, and the military is no exception. In the hospital bed on my left was a Christian woman who modeled mothering for me. She didn’t know it, but she was the Bible that I read, and it was through her example that I was set free to enjoy my little girl and appreciate her for the beautiful blessing she was.
Another army wife took me under her wing and taught me just about everything she knew. From her I learned that I didn’t have to go to around the world to serve God, I could glorify Him and be a witness at home by fixing up a batch of cinnamon rolls and teaching my daughter how to walk and talk.
But my heartache was not over. I was still committed to my life as a soldier, which meant daycare at six weeks and a two-month separation at nine months (it was as the saying goes, “If Uncle Sam had wanted you to have a family, he would have issued you one”). Wouldn’t that make you an emotional mess? It turned me into a basket case.
Eventually, I was able to come home for good.
I was still clueless, but God placed me in the middle of some truly smart believers who were also extremely patient (they had to be to put up with me). They modeled and mentored. They taught and encouraged. Sometimes they even corrected.
Over the years Jesus took all my failures and turned them into fabulous victories. As my knowledge of the Word of God grew I was able to apply His wisdom to the every day demands of life. Little-by-little my husband and I learned to trust that all of His promises were true, and so we left our family size in His hands.
Today I not only have one precious daughter, but 11, with four wonderful boys as a bonus.
I know what you are thinking: “It couldn’t have been that quick and easy!”
Well, you are right, it hasn’t been. Mothering all of these children has not been a spa vacation, either, but through my army experience I found out I don’t want to live in luxury, anyway. My goal is to use my life to glorify Christ.
Besides, by overcoming myself during those military years I developed endurance for all of the discomforts and hardships of pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing, including the overwhelm of sleep deprivation and mounds of laundry and dishes.
I have come to realize that being weak and foolish are not deficits in God’s eyes. He glories in our weakness, because then He is strong.
If this story has intrigued you, you may want to stay tuned as I share more specifically how God used my army training for good in my next post.
Oh, and make sure you tell the next soldier you see, whether male or female, just how much you appreciate their sacrifice and service.