Breathe deep and aim well
By Stephanie Pavlakis, Cadet –
Football, tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball, and track and field. These are popular high school sports, some of which we even practiced here at the College for Officer Training.
I am not athletic in any sense of the word. Rather than doing a typical sport during my senior year of high school in Anchorage, Alaska, I joined riflery—a popular sport in Alaskan schools and colleges. However, it is much more complicated than just aiming a rifle at a paper target and shooting. Riflery involves special suits, many practices, and breathing exercises—all leading up to the match.
Before even picking up the rifle, you have to put on your suit. This is not a comfortable suit and certainly not very flexible. In fact, it is designed to be extremely stiff and to not move at all. Under this suit we wear layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts. The point of all this is to steady ourselves. The suit provides the firm foundation needed to hold the body still when shooting. Without it, our aim would be much less accurate.
Today, as cadets, we can say we have put on our suits. The academic training here at the college has provided us with the stability and basic foundation we need to move forward. At times it might not have been comfortable, but the benefits speak for themselves when comparing the cadets who are before you today with the cadets who entered the College for Officer Training (CFOT) two years ago. We are thankful for the officers and staff who have poured into our learning. They hand stitched the suits, showed us where they were, and taught us how to put them on. While we still have much to learn, we know we are heading out with a firm foundation.
Once our suits were on, it was time to begin practicing. In riflery, we practiced for several hours each day during the season. These practices mimicked an actual match, from the silence on the shooting range, to the carefully measured movements, to the accurately scored targets. At CFOT, we had the chance to practice through Field Training. Out Sundays, corps programs, and winter and summer assignments provided us with opportunities for real life application of what we had learned. It was in these practice sessions that we experienced some of our greatest moments of growth—moments that have molded us into cadets ready to go on the field.
While the suits and practices are important, and you can make your way through riflery with just those two elements, you will only develop perfect aim when you breathe. Breathing is something we do every day, something I hope you are doing right now. In riflery, however, we were taught how to breathe. We were taught how to slow our breathing, take a deep breath right before the shot, and hold it until the shot had been fired. Though a seemingly small task, breathing calms the body, down to the heartbeat, and is the key factor in flawless accuracy.
These last two years, we have been taught how to breathe. These breathing exercises have come in the form of chapels, discipleship and other opportunities for spiritual growth and development. There comes a point in training, though, when you have to begin breathing on your own. Jeremiah 29:13 says, You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (ESV). This is what it means to truly breathe. Officers have led us in spiritual formation, but when it comes down to it, true spiritual growth only happens when each of us individually seeks the Lord with all our heart.
So today, breathe deep, cadets. Immerse yourself in God’s presence, because it is time for the match. It is time for reality. We’ve put the suits on, we’ve learned from our practices, and now is the time for the real deal. Now is the moment we have been preparing for.
Now is the time to breathe deep and aim well.