Preparation and Action

How his Sergeant taught him more about life than he realized

Posted in , Jun 4, 2010

“Therefore I will make preparations for it.”—I Chronicles 22:5

I was a college sophomore when I was called into the U.S. Army to fight in World War II. I was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas, where on the very first day, in 110-degree heat, we were marched to the parade ground to learn close-order drill.

Sergeant McElwain, heavyset and red of face, barked out orders, “Ri-i-i-ight, face!”After being chewed out a few times, we learned never to move on the word Ri-i-i-ight, but only on the word face. I soon discovered that Sergeant McElwain was following a time-tested pattern for giving an order. First comes the slow, drawn out “preparation command” after which the officer snaps the “command of execution.”

I have since found this same sequence often applies to my ongoing walk with God: A long period when nothing seems to happen is followed by a sudden rush of activity. I remember how, years ago, my wife Tib and I had run out of living space in our small starter home. The baby slept next to the laundry machine; the garage was full of bikes and boxes; our bedroom doubled as an office. Clearly, it was time to move. We began looking for a new home, but in spite of our continuing prayers nothing showed up. An entire year passed. Two. And still we saw nothing we liked or could afford.

Then one day a neighbor told us about a house that had just come on the market. It had exactly the number of rooms we needed; it had woods, a brook, two fireplaces. Tib walked around the house in one direction, I walked around it the other way. We met in the front yard, nodded and threw our arms around each other.

Within one week we agreed on terms. The long preparation command had been followed by an abrupt command of execution.

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