On the Corner
by Robert Docter –
I want to speak to this new session of cadets—this Forward 2000 Session. As a person with a lifetime commitment to the Army and its goals, I want to thank them for answering the call of Christ and stepping forward with a similar commitment they intend to demonstrate behaviorally.
You face in your initial basic training a process of acculturation. You are being immersed in another culture. This requires you to examine and embrace new values, different codes of conduct, unique dress and language patterns. You learn to take orders and follow direction. The intent is to change the way you think and act. You will be learning how to be a Salvation Army officer. You are moving from civilian life to “Army” life. You will be required to sacrifice some parts of yourself in order to learn new behaviors. Privacy will be diminished. Freedom will be reduced. New rules will be introduced. As you are treated like novices, your maturity will be tested. Understand that this is all part of the acculturation process, and that it doesn’t go on forever. These days, at the very beginning of this acculturation process you will have a strong desire to conform and be a part of something. It’s kind of the honeymoon stage.
Expect a second stage in which you begin to feel some conflict. It’s not a sin. It’s okay. How you deal with the conflict and move through it will determine your ease of entry into a stage of introspection and self appraisal. “Am I doing the right thing?” you might ask. Explore these feelings with people you trust. Be open. As you resolve these issues within you, you make firm decisions about your future which allow you to be both fully you and a future Salvation Army officer.
As you demonstrate mature responses to the acculturation process, you feel new personal power. Some of that is attributable to the spiritual growth you experience. Some of it is due to an increased personal discipline you embrace. Some of it is gained through identification and association with other human beings going through the same experience. At this stage, you will begin to understand the process in which you live and learn. Your expectations change. With the change in expectation, frustration diminishes. You now have a greater insight into the reality of the training process. You will discover that you appreciate to greater or lesser degrees different aspects of this process. That’s okay. It’s not a sin.
As the training continues, seek to integrate the total experience. It will be presented in piecemeal fashion simply because that’s the way curriculum is designed. It is the responsibility of the learner to integrate the pieces into new generalizations.
My hope is that you will see the Army as an integrated ministry to people. It is unlike any other church. While you might want to finish training in order to preach sermons and “save souls,” I hope you learn that all souls aren’t necessarily saved on their knees at the penitent form. Some begin to evaluate their spiritual condition in a bread line—or by the lifting hand of Christian love which helps someone move toward a better life. You see, Christianity is a relationship—with God with and with our fellow humans. The most powerful communication you have is the one you live. Compassion isn’t communicated with words.The power of Christ in your life is not measured by the quality of your sermons. It is delivered to the extent your behavior reveals genuine love. If you don’t feel it, you can’t reveal it. It is possible only by practicing with those around you the presence of God within you.
So, have goals which will help you become a fully integrated person in all parts of your life. Write them down. Keep finding ways to move toward them while accepting the reality of the acculturation process you are currently living. Remember, you have made a career choice for life. You’ll find it very rewarding, but not easy. As Brother Lawrence said, “practice the presence of God .”