Last week I attended the National Day of Prayer breakfast at the Paradise Point Officers’ Club on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The speaker was retired U.S. Army Reserve, Command Sergeant Major James F. Hill. Don’t be alarmed, he earned the title of Marine during the
Vietnam War, serving at MCB Camp Lejeune at 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, then deploying to Vietnam for two tours with 1st Force Recon Company as a scout and patrol team leader. He later joined the U.S. Army Reserve, deploying to Iraq as Command Sergeant Major with various units from February 2004 through March 2005 and January through December of 2008.
As Hill spoke to us, he told of his fellow Marines in Vietnam and of his fellow soldiers in Iraq. He told us of his life between the two wars and of failures and successes. He spoke of his career as a licensed professional counselor and his volunteer work as a lead therapist for Canyon Heroes.
In his remarks, he gave a piece of advice that has stuck with me; “continue to write your book.” It is tempting to allow a life event, a diagnosis, a tragedy or even a great success to become the final chapter in our “book.” Sometimes we get stuck in a place and cannot see a way out. Unemployment, bankruptcy, non-judicial punishment, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder or divorce. “Continue to write your book” encourages us to progress through life in spite of setbacks. It doesn’t minimize hardship or trivialize tragedy, but it helps to put it in a proper place; it helps give us perspective.
I am reminded of the end of the book of Genesis, the story of Joseph. Joseph suffered unjustly several times throughout his life, first at the hands of his own brothers and later at the hands of an Egyptian named Potiphar. Yet, despite the unfairness and wickedness done to him, his final remark to his brothers is, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Joseph had an attitude of maturity, of hope, not despair through slavery and imprisonment. From a human perspective, there was no hope for him to ever reach success or to be reunited with his family, yet Joseph trusted God and kept writing his book.
What are you writing? Does it feel like the last chapter in your book? What would it be like to look back later in this chapter and say, “this was only one chapter,” or to say with Joseph, “God meant this for good?”