Friday, December 7, 2007

Drown Proofing and Surf Torture

"What's your bottom line, Eli? Your highest value? Your deepest conviction?" We were having one of those nitty gritty, intense conversations. I kept my gaze focused on Eli's big brown eyes, their intensity matched my tone of voice.

"To know God more and grow stronger in character."

(I promise he came up with that on his own! After he said that, I didn't say anything for several moments. I know, I know... that's hard to believe!)

For the last couple of years, (since Eli was about 10 years old), he's dreamed of being a Navy SEAL one day. Right now he is reading a memoir of an ex-Navy SEAL. He keeps sharing bits of the book with me as he reads along -- now he's at the part where the author relates his experience during what the SEAL training calls "Hell Week." He reads a part to me and I keep asking him, "And nobody dies?" He reassures me -- again -- that nobody dies. But that whole "drown proofing" thing where they tie your ankles together and tie your hands behind your back and then tell you to jump in the deep end... I told Eli I would probably cry and have wet pants... before I jumped in. (I'm pretty sure I'd wimp out. A couple of weeks ago I got one of those migraine headaches -- I call 'em "throw-up headaches," for self-explanatory reasons. For one whole day, sometimes two, I curl up in the fetal position, cry, and beg God to "just take me Home.")

But then I got to thinking. Don't we all experience drown proofing and surf torture -- run-of-the-mill boot camp training... only done in the pounding surf -- during different seasons in our lives? Did you know that training to be a SEAL is voluntary? Wouldn't it be nice if life asked for volunteers?

This morning Eli told me the guys in training, (in the book), worked really hard to make their barracks perfect for inspection. Then when they were down at the beach going through surf torture, another instructor came through the barracks and completely trashed the place. So when they got back to the barracks in time for inspection... well, you can imagine how that went over.

I asked Eli why they did that. "Because, Mom, life isn't fair. And they wanted to show the guys that."

"Oh. Right." Let me clarify, these guys volunteer for this??

Okay, so right now we are in such an amazing, sweet season. People email us and ask us if we moved here or if we're on vacation. Exactly. I wonder the same thing every single day. And, yet, I don't want to grow complacent. I want to stay sharp, fit, ready.

I have friends who are enduring, persevering, and overcoming their own personal "Hell Week." (Only it's a whole lot longer than one week.) They have entire intercessory chains that literally circle the globe with prayer warriors. I see the courage and strength... and grace... these people display as they go through this season -- and it is evident Whose grace is being poured out into their lives. I am perpetually inspired.

I am inspired not to take this season for granted. I am inspired to continually step out to the very edge and do the thing that terrifies me most. I am inspired to keep on keeping on, to stay in the game even when it looks as though the score is settled. I am inspired to live every moment like it's my last -- with my heart set on an eternal perspective. I am inspired to never take a "small day" or a "small moment" for granted.

This month, last year, I poured out my heart to God in my journal, "Please God! This longing to experience other cultures, to travel the world, to expose my children to history, food, language, cultures, other worlds beyond Spokane... it won't go away. My children are growing up. Help me seize this moment, this day. Help me be innovative. Help me find ways to experience life all the way to the edge and teach my children what it means to live for You!" And then I added, "And, Lord, this longing to travel the world and live in other lands... please just take it out of my heart. I'm letting it go." (Hope deferred makes the heart sick -- Proverb 13:12. I was so heartsick at that moment that I figured it would be less painful to just let go of the dream.)

Five weeks later LeRoy interviewed for the job here in Germany. That night I prayed again, "Lord, I know you love me! I know You wouldn't mess with me!" (I know God smiled.) Deep within my heart -- way, way deep down -- I knew there were still a few hot embers of hope.

Our children were thrilled with the idea when we told them. And our family prayed, in earnest.

A few more weeks passed and then LeRoy got the call, "Mr. Olson, I called to let you know that if you want the job here in Germany, it's yours."

LeRoy then called me at home, "Sharon? Do you still want to move to Germany?" (I am telling you, there are times to mess with me... and then there are other times...!)

I very slowly, not quite hesitating, but not fully giving myself over to a place of total vulnerability either, said, "Yes..."

"Then start packing." I burst into tears. I forgot LeRoy was on the phone and just started an all-out praise and worship service right then and there.

"Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, God! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! How I love You, Jesus! You are so good! Your ways are better than my ways! Thank You, Lord! You do hear my heart! You do know me even better than I know myself! You do know my dreams! Thank You, God!" Okay, this whole time I'm sobbing and telling Jesus how grateful I am, I did not realize that my daughter was standing there.

Suddenly her sweet little very-matter-of-fact and serious voice interrupted my monologue, "Mom!!" I looked at her through blurred vision, wiping a tear from my cheek. She stared at me like someone had to pull themselves together -- and she would help me do it. Then she asked me, "Is that God on the phone?!"

"Well, no. It's your Dad on the phone." Then I held my hands toward heaven and added, "But I was just talking to my Dad, and telling Him thank you for moving mountains for us!"

So what does any of this have to do with the Navy SEALS or "Hell Week" or character training? I have no idea. (Enlightening, right?)

All I know is that while I go through this season of utter amazement of Who God is, my heart aches for my friends and family who are going through their own personal "Hell Week," and my prayers increase, "God, please don't let them give up! Please encourage them to keep hoping! Keep pouring out Your grace!"

"But I will hope continually, And I will praise You yet more and more.
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And Your salvation all the day, For I do not know their limits.
I will go in the strength of the Lord God;
I will make mention of Your righteousness,
of Yours only."
(Psalm 71:14-16 NKJV)
Our time here in Germany is short. I can't believe we're already 7 months into our 3-year committment! Yikes! It's going way too quickly! I am reminded how short our time here on earth is. And I am reminded of the gift of another 24 hours in which His mercies are new. Another 24 hours "to know God more and grow stronger in character." Another 24 hours to pray for those who didn't volunteer to go through "Hell Week." (Jim Hayford preached a sermon once while his family was enduring a season in which his 11-year old daughter had leukemia. He said, "If you're going through hell, Don't stop! Keep Walking!")
Please know how much it means to me to hear the updates and receive prayer requests from home (...and Africa, Amy). Please know we're praying for you!

This blog was extremely difficult to write. I feel so inept at expressing all that is in my heart during this time of both rejoicing and crying out to the Lord on behalf of those who need extra strength, courage, hope, and grace right now.

Please know how much I love you. But Jesus loves you more!

Because of His grace,

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