Military Life

Waiting on Military Orders

September 4, 2014

Today is a waiting day in a waiting week that will compress into a waiting season that only makes sense in retrospect.

My future home is in the hands of a Marine Corps review board. I imagine them as white-haired GI Joes, seasoned Marines who will stare at Mike’s picture and say, “Look at this fellow. He certainly has potential!” Then they will close their eyes, spin around in an overstuffed office chair, and let their index finger land on a map that will reorient the rest of my life.

That is how I imagine military orders are decided.

The Marine sits at his desk and waits. I sit at the kitchen table and wait. We have lots of conversations about other things while really only thinking about one thing.

What is next?

I twirl my hair and help myself to another snack and wonder how Jesus stayed so very peaceful in the center of a seasick storm. He took a nap on a boat that was about to sink while his friends panicked and prepared to die. Jesus looked chaos in the face it told it to calm down.

How do I do that? How do I stand at the edge of my own boat and speak peace into an uncertain future?  How do I sleep well in the storm?

As I write this, two Italian man exchange a shouting conversation just below our balcony. One stands on a street curb. The other hangs from an open window of a car paused at a red light. They shout back and forth in Italian and I can imagine their hands flying to the cadence of their passionate words. When I hear the Italians talk, I want to stay here in this house on the second floor of an apartment building on a busy street corner in Little Italy.  I like the Italians. I like the dog park up the road, the weekly farmer’s market down the road, and the ocean water that houses dormant sailboats two blocks away. I love San Diego in all the ways it is familiar, in all the ways it has become home.

But if I’m honest, I’m also excited about where we may go next. I’m hungry to live once again in the land of possibility, the land of new friends, new houses, new everything; to rely on the GPS to get to the grocery store and to mispronounce street names until a local corrects me.  I love the excitement of the new frontier, the dreams and possibilities you can store in the pockets of an unknown future. I love quantifying my life by the number and weight of moving boxes, and then figuring out where it will all go. I appreciate how the military refines you in social skills by asking you to build community over and over again. I have become quite good at introducing myself. I’ve practiced my firm handshake a thousand times.

A few months ago we passed the two year mark on orders. We have less than a year remaining, so once a week I count up the number of months left on my outstretched fingers.  I dance back and forth between the right here and the not yet, living the life in front of me while narrating it in the past tense. Sometimes when I’m tired or restless or frustrated I begin to mentally pack my life up, but I can’t tell if it is in moving boxes or in a runaway bag.

We are supposed to hear a hint of a decision this week, which means we will probably hear in two-to-infinity weeks. Orders that are supposed to be written in pen by December will actually be written in pencil around February. This week isn’t even a decision; it’s a hint of a decision that opens one door that leads to twelve more doors that could be possibilities that lead to probabilities that lead to…. Geez, I need a glass of wine.

I need both Jesus and a glass of wine. Could I get them in combination, please?

I’m standing at the bow of the boat praying both “Have your way!” and “Please, don’t kill me!”

I’m thrilled by the idea of reckless adventure and petrified by the idea of reckless adventure.

I sit at the kitchen table and wait. I try to describe the military life in words that capture its weirdness, its mystery, its vast uncertainty. I love it and I loathe it. I imagine outlandish scenarios where we can stay longer and similar scenarios where we can leave early. I tug and tug at the fringe of a rope that leads to a perpetual game of tug of war. I ask God to help me, to focus me, to speak calm into my seasickness.

I ask him help me to focus not on the occasions to say hello or goodbye, but the urgency to say yes, resounding yes, to whatever waits for us on the next shore.

I wait. I pray. I snack. And anticipate the exact moment the white-haired GI Joes stop spinning.

This is the military. Welcome aboard.

  • Lauren Aiken

    I totally understand and have lived and breathed your words. Moving from Italy to Cheyenne was not thrilling for me, especially since I didn’t want to leave at all! But new adventures awaits. Different, but new!
    I am hoping you get a good station! Cheers to this crazy military life!

    • Lauren!
      What a change from Italy to Wyoming, but you are right, great adventure awaits at each new station. Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!

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