Continuing with thoughts generated from the book, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell…
The SEAL training at this point was intense and about to get a bit more so, as described in this bit on his first day in BUD/s First phase, the first day of the first of four weeks that would culminate in Hell Week.
So there they are, class 226, assembled outside the barracks two hours before dawn on Coronado island, the temp about 50 degrees (which is COLD for an Arizonan!). Their class leader presents them to the instructor and without so much as a good morning, he orders them to hit the surf…After that it’s pretty much continual exercise…
By 0600 I had counted out more than 450 push-ups. And there were more, I just couldn’t count any more. I’d also done more than fifty sit-ups. We were ordered from one exercise to another. Guys who were judged to be slacking were ordered to throw in a set of flutter kicks.
“The result of this was pure chaos. Some guys couldn’t keep up, others were doing push-ups when they’d been ordered to do sit-ups, men were falling, hitting the ground facedown. In the end, half of us didn’t know where the hell we were or what we were supposed to be doing. I just kept going, doing my absolute best, through the roars of abuse and the flying spray of the power hoses: push-ups, sit-ups, screwups. It was now all the same to me. Every muscle in my body ached…”
When they finally finished, he was so exhausted he could hardly eat breakfast.
It was, of course, all by design. This was not some kind of crazed Chinese fire drill arranged by the instructors. This was a deadly serious assessment of their charges, a method used to find out, in the hardest possible way, who really wanted to do this, who really cared enough to go through with it, who could face the next four weeks before Hell Week, when things got seriously tough.
“It was designed to compel us to reassess our commitment. Could we really take this punishment? Ninety-eight of us had formed up on the grinder two hours earlier. Only sixty-six of us made it through breakfast…”
The parallels to the Christian life here are uncanny. Just like Jesus, we learn obedience through the things that we suffer, but we also have the opportunity to determine just how important God and His word really are to us. Is it all lip service? Will be serve Him, be loyal to Him only for what we can get out of it? Only so long as things go well for us? And when they stop going well, will we throw in the towel. Or, in SEAL training parlance, “ring the bell?”
God knows, of course, but we don’t. When periods of intense adversity and confusion come, will we be like those seedlings in the parable of the sower that were choked out by the worries and cares of the world? Or will we be like the tree planted by streams of water, whose roots go deep so that it will not fear when the drought comes. Will we be like those trainees who made it through SEAL training, recalling why they were there, determined to give it their all, adamant about not quitting.
That’s just some human, transient activity. Noble for time, perhaps but ultimately temporal. How much more should we, enlisted as trainees in the Lord’s army, keep recalling why we are here, determined to give our Saviour our all, resolutely plugging forward one step at a time, no matter what? SEAL training is something of and in the world. Our training and service is for time and for eternity. Besides, to whom would we go? Who else has the words of truth?
It helps me to look at times of adversity and affliction as training rather than some random misfortune. My life may seem to have devolved into some kind of “crazed Chinese fire drill,” but I can know it has purpose in it, because my Instructor is the one who knows all, who delights in righteousness and justice and grace. SEAL instructors keep close tabs on their trainees, they know exactly what can be withstood without permanent injury and guide the instruction down to the very last increment of pressure that can be tolerated. Confusion, chaos, exhaustion, discomfort, even agony… they know where the line is, even if the recruits do not. Just as God knows our line, though we do not.