This deployment is different than all the others.
Well, for one, this time Bear is the Chaplain, and not the Chaplain assistant. This time he doesn't carry a weapon, which given the success rate of his firing range experience, that's not a bad thing. This time he is in a different role, and this time, so am I.
I have mentioned before, I think, how I never wanted to be a Chaplain's wife, but through the examples of Godly women in my life and the Holy Spirit working on my heart over the past 16 years, He has changed me. But at the same time, God knows our needs, our strengths and our weaknesses.
I have a friend, Laura, who has stepped into the role of Chaplain's wife so beautifully it constantly amazes me. She is loving, and a truly compassionate partner to her Chaplain/husband through some very difficult circumstances, and God has built a ministry to the spouses of her husband's soldiers through Laura. She has been a comfort to hurting wives and families in her husband's unit and is lovely example of Grace, and "Jesus, with skin on."
When I grow up, I want to be like her. I'm so not there yet.
As Bear and I began walking this path nearly three years ago, I felt certain that I would not be able to be his "civilian partner" and minister to his soldier's families because of the ages of our children and the season of life I am in right now. God knows that and has given me baby steps, and a picture, (in miniature) of duties to come.
With this deployment, Bear is assigned to a Chaplain Detachment, so he doesn't really have a large unit of soldiers with whom he will be working. His "team" consists of him and his Chaplain's Assistant.
The relationship between a Chaplain and his assistant is unique, consisting of an officer, the Chaplain; and an enlisted soldier, the Chaplain assistant. Ordinarily, (in my experience) officers and enlisted soldiers are like oil and water. When thrown in a jar together and shaken, they will mingle and work together quite nicely, but when the shaking stops, they each retreat to their own levels. This is not the case in the symbiotic relationship between Chaplain and assistant.
The Chaplain relies on the enlisted soldier for protection in a combat zone, because the Chaplain does not carry a weapon; for support in his duties as a Chaplain, and sometimes the assistant becomes a gateway to the other enlisted soldiers in the unit. The enlisted soldier in turn, relies on the Chaplain for guidance, leadership and hopefully encouragement in his own career development, promotions, etc.
It can and should be a relationship built on trust and respect. In some ways it is not unlike a marriage--created in the halls of the pentagon, if you will, and sometimes, (more often than not) blessed of God.
Through the 17 years that Bear was a Chaplain's assistant, he has known some wonderful Chaplains. They have been mentors to him, spiritual guidance counselors, pastors and friends. He has also known some immature Chaplains, who were difficult, selfish, and lazy. These are not the norm, however and his good experiences far outweigh the bad.
I have prayed for Bear's unknown assistant since he embarked on this journey to become a Chaplain. I didn't know who it would be. It could have been a female. It might have been a non-believer with no regard for the things of God. I prayed that as a Chaplain, Bear could be a positive influence in the life of that soldier, just as Bear's Chaplains have been in his life.
He has given Bear an amazing assistant who knows and loves the Lord. He has a great love of scripture and studying God's word. Plus, he's a crack shot at the firing range. For which I am most thankful.
God has blessed this relationship though, in a way I did not expect. He has given me a new friend. Someone I can hopefully mentor and teach. Someone I can come alongside and share what I have learned about Army family life. We have only just begun this relationship and it has already proved to be equally as symbiotic.
As you may know from my sidebar and my comments area, I don't use real names on my blog, so we'll just call her Kate. Kate and I have emailed a few times and gotten to know one another. I've come to know just how much she loves her soldier and her God. She will make a good Army wife, and I hope that we will be around to share the blessed event with them one day. But for now, Kate and Jay are in a long-distance relationship. (Darn deployments.)
She is new to this whole "army-family-deployment-separation-what's going on with my soldier" thing. So I've been trying to find ways to encourage her. To help her understand the army system and answer any questions she may have. A day or two ago, I passed along a compliment I "overheard" about her soldier, just to give her a boost for the day, and she ended up returning the investment I made in her, by passing along some encouragement to me which she also "overheard."
That's the way God does things. We are blessed to be a blessing. We pass it on to someone else and it, in turn, gets passed around and we all end up getting a blessing. I love this verse in Luke, chapter 6, verse 38; "give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
That's what Kate has done for me. She has been one more confirmation that Bear is on the right path. It has been such a difficult, winding, often dark and scary road to get here. We always tried to remember the words of one of those Godly Chaplains in our past, "Stay the course. It may not be easy, but stay the course!" It is good to finally be on the other side of that wilderness road; to emerge from the darkness on the other side and see light, not only Light, but a Way stretching out in front of us with many wonderful symbiotic experiences--and Godly dividends.