Spending most of my summer and fall after graduating from N.C. Wesleyan College in 1970 at Fort Polk, Louisiana, was not part of my plans. I'd studied four years to be a biologist. Now Army basic training and advanced individual training were to be my new courses. I'd graduate again in November, this time in uniform with a rank and a military occupational specialty. Infantry.
Basic training, in addition to fundamental military skills, taught the men in my training company, Alpha One One, a new way of thinking. During nine hot weeks, we set aside the old, sometimes not very willingly, and absorbed Army new.
One July afternoon, during hand-to-hand combat training in the sawdust pit, I had a nose-tonose conversation with Drill Sergeant Reno, who didn't care for my morning shave. I was only 22, and I didn't shave every day yet – there were no whiskers. Only a little fuzz. Like a tender peach.
“Your face isn't up to standard, trainee! Do you understand me?” “Yes, Drill Sergeant!”
From then on, I took the razor every morning, and I shaved my face naked. That six-month journey was the transition from civilian to soldier. From old to new. From fuzz to whiskers. Drill Sergeant Reno made his point loudly, and I learned a valuable lesson – just let
It wasn't easy.
This next period of time at First Christian Church is only weeks old and could stretch months and months and months. Maybe beyond. For me, it will be a kind of spiritual basic training – a time to set aside the old, to await actively what will be new. What I recall fondly about my church and hope to be true once more, what I didn't care for and want no part of again, what I wish to be fresh in the future belong to me alone. They're old baggage, really. And they will get in my way. They will interfere with my waiting. I took thoughts like those about my own young life to Louisiana more than 50 years ago. And I left them there. And I came home new. And far better.
Almost seven years ago, Gary preached a sermon titled “Leader of the Band.” It's one of the fabulous dozen in kernels from a farmer's pulpit.
He wrote and spoke:
“What if he means to say that it is so easy to make our accommodation with the existing order that we stop raising our eyes to the horizon and believing in something better … something more holy?
How, after all, shall we prepare the way of the Lord if our lives are filled with everything else?
How can we open ourselves to new ways of thinking and acting and seeing the world until we clear some room? And yes, it may feel like trauma … upheaval … something crashing down. But the surest way to avoid the new is to hold fast to the old.”
We've published our call for new leadership and a new tomorrow. It's time to let change happen. It's time to clear some room. It's time to look to the horizon. It's time to wait for something new because new is coming … if only we will let it.
Old is already here.
Let it go.
I have it on good authority.
Drill Sergeant Reno said so.
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.