I remember it well. Almost as clearly as if it happened last month. But it didn't. It happened deep in the summer of '58. I was a Marine. Almost eight thousand miles of ocean between me and my wife.
I remember it well. Almost as clearly as if it happened last month. But it didn't. It happened deep in the summer of '58. I was a Marine. Almost eight thousand miles of ocean between me and my wife. One-word descriptions of my condition? Disillusioned. Stretched. Learning. Lonely. Determined. Sincere. Uncertain. Afraid.
The Quonset hut I called home housed forty-seven other Marines, and row after row after row of the identical round-top dwellings wrapped around hundreds of other young fighting men—men who had been trained to kill. No need to contaminate your mind with the stuff that went on inside those barracks. If you have trouble imagining, just think of a pack of hungry junkyard dogs that have been teased until they're snarling and foaming at the mouth. Add an endless stream of profanity, subtract all moral restraint, multiply by tropical heat and humidity, divide it by 365 days a year, and you have some idea of life on The Rock, Okinawa. Thanks to those eighteen months, I have never felt the urge to tour Alcatraz.
But it took that experience to convince me of one of the most basic of theological facts: Man is totally depraved. Within the span of my first six months in that ungodly environment, believe me, I became convinced. God used that inescapable, oppressive atmosphere to draw me to Himself, to find refuge and refreshment in His Book, and to break my stubborn will. It was there I decided to change careers, go back to school, and pursue the gospel ministry.
Quietly, almost imperceptibly, my heart began to soften to the idea. Rather than offending me, all the verbal filth made me pity the guys who were trapped like rats in a sewer pipe. Their inability to gain control over their lust, in spite of the epidemic level of venereal disease, caused me to feel compassion rather than criticize and alienate myself from my outfit. Instead of remaining aloof and monkish, I risked getting up close, being a friend, rubbing shoulders with men whose lifestyle was, to me, nauseating and empty. But God honored that approach. Before I said sayonara, seven had come to Christ. Now seven out of forty-seven may not seem like much to shout about, but in a Marine Corps Quonset hut, friend—it's a revival!
Looking back, I distinctly remember the turning point. No heavenly vision caused my attitude to change. My resentment toward God didn't decrease because of some audible voice in the night. I can trace the acceptance of my circumstance and the shift of my focus to a single verse of Scripture.
I'll tell you about it tomorrow.