Once in our lives, two years of our time
Two years. One month ten months if you want to be picky about it but yes, almost two years.
There's a variation of the song 'training to be soliders' which instead sings 'once in our lives, total waste of time'. It's a song that I often joined in to sing, in part because subverting military songs is amusing, in part because often I identify with that sentiment. As my time as an NSF has come to an end though, I ask myself, is it all really a total waste of time?
So I set some time aside and pondered upon what these two years have meant to me. Here's part 1 of 2, this one focusing more on my time as a trainee.
'You're my dog. You're my slave. What I tell you to do, you do. You are worthless. You are nothing'.
I wasn't even really directly caught in it, just by the sidelines, high kneeling and watching. Yet I will remember the platoon ics being punished in front, and the words that were spoken.
Conquered by none, fifth coy. The beginning of my journey in ns and quite an unforgettable one. Till this day I will never fully understand what goes through the mind of all of those NSFs just about a year senior. How they treat the recruits, who were really just like their juniors, the way they did. It was a time which really set the tone of NS, what it will mean to me in the next two years.
I've met people whom I am not exactly fond of in my life. Most of my life I just ignoring the words of these people, reminding myself to love with the love of Christ. People may not like you, but it doesn't matter for it is our responsibility to love regardless.
This had really been a challenge for me, a time which really humbled me in understanding the love of God. I felt such rage towards those particular individuals, disgusted at the way they would treat another human being. The way they punished not even to discipline but as an unnecessary show of power. How could I love these people?
Yet Jesus upon the cross had said 'father forgive them for they know not what they do'. These were the people who jeered at him, flogged him, nailed him to the cross. All for wrongs he did not commit. This is what it fully means when Paul said in Romans 5 'while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us'. This is the greatness of the love of God.
So I had went through fifth coy, looking into the eyes of these individuals sometimes, and understanding within me that Christ died for them. Christ loves them and yearns for them to know Him. It was something I struggled with. I found myself quite incapable of reaching within me to find love for them. Now almost two years later, with these people being but a distant memory, it is easier to forgive. I wonder how will I react though, if I were to meet such people in my life again? Would I be able to love as Christ loved me?
It is humbling. It brought me closer in understanding the amazing grace, the amazing love of God for His people. It challenged me on my understanding of loving one another in the way Christ loved us. In the depths of darkness I came to better see the light.
I keep trying to separate my life. There would be time spent in camp, and time spent out of camp. Army life was the life I couldn't care for, while my book out time was 'real life'. Whenever I was in camp I just looked forward to getting out of it, which is a pretty sad way to look at things since we do spend five out of seven days of a week in camp. I just trudged through each day, did my best to avoid getting into trouble, put in the minimum effort just to go through the motions. My head was always elsewhere, thinking about what I would do during the weekend, meeting friends and family, what I would eat. Ignoring what felt like psychological torture in camp (which is true to a certain extent but exaggerated).
I realised eventually, albeit a little too late, that you can't do that. You can't separate army life and life outside as if one mattered and the other didn't. You can't go through each day as if it was completely unimportant and just look to time to do your own things. If anything, I have come to realise that army life might well be closer to real life than the comforts, free time and fun times I had before enlisting and during the weekends. Army life is where our Christ life is tested, and it is a mission field. It is not just for making our lives difficult but it is really a time when we are strengthened. To not recognise this is really failing to honour God's love, wisdom and sovereignty over our lives.
I thought that army life was inhibiting my ability to live for Christ since it took away time I could be spending on doing more 'Godly' things. I say that I know God put me there for a purpose, but I failed to live it out. This was most evident especially after a period of discouragement in the second quarter of my professional term. I started well, but really just gave up at some point in time.
Looking back, it is one of my greatest regrets of my two years. Instead of using this opportunity to be the light in the darkness, I became rather self absorbed. I was sludging through each day feeling terrible and because I felt that my feelings were legitimate, thus I also have the legitimate right to just not care about anything. I wonder though, how different things could have been if I had seen it all through different lenses.
What we make out of our two years is up to us. We could complain all day (even if its just in our hearts) and feel worse about it all, or we could seize the God given windows of opportunity and let it be exciting times. My advice to others going through NS still (especially those undergoing training) is this: don't keep thinking of it as an obstacle to overcome, but see it more as a time to live for the glory of God.
It is something I feel strongly about, because I personally lived through it. I wasted my time. I was a cadet just looking forward to pass out. It was one of the toughest periods in my two years and yet I just feel that it could have turned out so differently.
That being said, if you were already like me, don't let the past determine who you are. I wasn't the best cadet, so all the more I resolved to be an excellent trainer. It's never too late to turn your eyes upon Jesus.
God's people never came to where they were the easy way. Joseph, prime minister of Egypt, was betrayed, sold as a slave and wrongfully imprisoned. David, King of Isreal, was hunted by Saul for years. Almost all of the twelve disciples were martyred, they won't even see their reward in this life.
We are God's soldiers called to fight a spiritual warfare for all of our lives. It isn't meant to be easy, if it is there wouldn't be a point. In many ways, how we fight this battle of NS is a reflection of how we face life as a Christian. We need to take this time and let God mould us to become His soldier. At the same time, in the midst of the darkness, we choose to be the difference, choose to be the light. This is part of what it means to pick up our cross.
Stay strong and see what God has in store for you. It may not be immediately obvious, but it will eventually become as clear as day.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
- James 1:2-4,12.
Be the better man.
In the two years of my time, in the midst of so many quotable quotes, this is the one phrase I do believe I will remember for a long time to come. I wrote quite extensively on it once, so I won't repeat the entire story here once again. You can check out this link to find what I had wrote on this not too long ago.
Part two will be ready...when its ready heh.
Part two will be ready...when its ready heh.