The Courier

Howard RittenhouseA couple of years ago, I went to Wainwright (triggering shakes and flash-backs the whole way) in order to be part of an interview for two prospective Reg force chaplains.  We sat down very amicably – we’re all friends here! – and proceeded to give them the third, fourth, and fifth degree: “You’re a chaplain in a unit and a troop comes to you and says, ‘Padre, my girlfriend just found out I have a wife, and my wife just found out I have a girlfriend.  I’m in trouble!  What do I do?!?’”  Now, obviously the answer is: pray.  Then leave the country and take up a new life in Albania under an assumed name.

Obviously, I’m kidding.  Not about the story – I’ve heard similar ones several times (sadly) – but about posing that scenario to these wide-eyed prospective chaplains.  Clearly we wouldn’t pose such a scenario – we don’t want to scare them off with horror stories!  I say, let them find out for themselves what a convoluted and magnificent mess humanity is.

But I digress.  The interview process reminded me just how long and drawn out my own entry into the CAF was.  I initially spent nearly five years (!) attempting to join the Primary Reserves as a chaplain: everything expired multiple times, paperwork got lost, no one could tell me why the process was slower than molasses running uphill in February.  It was all very frustrating, tiresome, and disheartening.  (The story is much longer, but I’m giving you the abbreviated, I-don’t-have-time-for-this-tedious-rabbit-trail-of-a-story version.)

After much thought and prayer, I experienced what theologians call an “epiphany” (a revelation from God) – no, I’m serious!  I strongly felt God telling me not to pursue this course.  So I didn’t.  Then a few months later, the padre in Meaford (whom I’d never met) called like a telemarketer at dinner, and wouldn’t leave me alone.  He was convinced God was indeed calling me into the CAF as a chaplain, but when I gave the Reserves another shot (just to shut him up), and once again, the process moved along like a dead snail, he admitted I’d been right.  And then he pronounced, “God’s calling you to the Reg force!”  I’m sure farmers in Biggar, SK could’ve heard my eyes roll.

But after much more arm twisting and persuasion – and at the full-throttle support and urging of my wife – I did indeed realize God was calling me to this ministry.

So – if you’re looking for someone to blame for me being among you: God, Padre Mike Allen (he’s still in – send him some angry email), and my wife (don’t send her email, she’ll fix you with a steely glare and I’ll be for the chop).

Anyway, my point is that life is often (it seems) a string of challenges, traffic jams, and inexplicable lack of forward progress.  And it’s often not easy to see why things aren’t moving, why nothing seems to be changing, why we seem stuck in amber like a prehistoric mosquito.  Perseverance is required.  And more than a little patience.  Now, I don’t know about you, but perseverance (or pig-headed, Teutonic stubbornness) I have, but patience?  I’ve run out of patience writing this let alone what you must feel reading it.  But if the military teaches us anything, it is perseverance and patience.  And both are virtues we need in spades, not only in the CAF, but for life.

So when once again things are proceeding as fast as a herd of turtles, take a deep breath, take a step back, re-evaluate, and dig deep for patience and perseverance.

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