By Chaplain Jim Lewis
I’m finally home from my deployment, sleeping in my own bed, having home-cooked food again and everything else the home front brings! MOST of that is GREAT! However, along with the joys of coming home are always the challenges that all of us face. And statistics consistently show that coming home is often harder on families and relationships than being away.
The process itself of coming home is full of its own set of challenges. My messages have been rather erratic lately—that’s due to the common struggles of the erratic nature of transitions, the challenge of finding time to do what needs to be done, restarting relationships, and finding our place again in family systems, community and employment systems that have managed without us all this time (and for me, having access to my address list—things got rather chaotic when I had to leave really quick for emergency leave!) And these are the SIMPLE obstacles, IF everything is going well in those relationships and systems!
Now imagine how all of that is complicated when we each come home to find various additional challenges. Whether those additional challenges are the bearings going out in the wheel of one of the TWO family vehicles (with FOUR very active family members going FOUR different directions at once!), all the way to the world-up-side-down problems of unemployment or families falling apart (and there’s always a few from a unit our size.) The otherwise “little” challenges can quickly become overwhelming.
One of my friends recently ran across a couple Vietnam Veterans and started talking to them. In their conversation, she thanked them for their service and offered to pray for them. Though the experience of rejection was many years passed, this brief conversation opened flood-gates of tears from one of the now old Veterans. Some of you reading this will be newer Veterans like me, some will be older Veterans like that man my friend recently met and some of you will merely be caring people wondering if there’s anything you can do.
I just saw my kids’ school bus driver whom I’ve come to know as a good friend over the years, and whose daughter is recently going through deployments, reunions and such, and her greeting was, “Look what the cat drug in….” A pleasant greeting (she said it with a smile!) that acknowledged my absence and invited genuine conversation without being the empty, “Hi, how are ya, glad you’re back…,” nor the trite, even if true offer, “What can I do?” The bus driver’s greeting flowed from genuine relationship; my other friend’s impact came from the power of prayer and from her presence overflowing with the Fruit of the Spirit.
Whether you’re one of those Veterans with God-only-knows-what bottled up inside, or one of those who can’t contain the Fruit of the Spirit overflowing from inside, use that gift of discernment to find each other. Not every Veteran is struggling or suffering, though many are, regardless of how long ago it was they served. Not everyone who offers help is being any more than trite, though many are. If you’re one of those who can’t ask, though you need to, or one of those who don’t know how to live the love of Christ, though you know you need to, consistent prayer is the key to getting from here to there.
A key for raising kids to be overflowing with the Spirit rather than raising kids to be trite and superficial, is also that consistent pattern of prayer—both WITH them and FOR them—and regularly talking with them about things more important than how they’re doing in school or how their team is doing. Just as “deep calls to deep,” depth comes from depth, and as deep as the Valley of the Shadow of Death can be, those lost in it can only be reached by those whose souls are also deep.
James Lewis is an endorsed Army Reserve Chaplain. He is endorsed by the United Methodist Endorsing agency. He serves First United Methodist Church, Cuyhoga Falls, Ohio. He is an elder in the Florida Annual Conference and an affiliate member of the Eastern Ohio Annual Conference.