Coming from a family where my dad and uncles served as professional soldiers, it was my desire to continue that legacy when it was my turn to enlist. (My country practices conscription, where every able-bodied male would need to devote two years of their lives to serve in the military.)
I would never forget the first day of my enlistment. While others despaired and griped about losing their personal freedom, I was brimming with excitement. It was the start of a new adventure and fulfillment of a childhood dream. To top it off, I was enlisting into my country’s elite special forces, an honor that few had the chance of attaining. On the first night of my enlistment, I gazed out of my barrack window and whispered a silent prayer of thanksgiving, “Dear Lord, thank you for this opportunity of a lifetime, help me do well, and watch over me during my trainings. Amen.”
The first three months of basic military training was tough but fulfilling. Due to the nature of the training and time spent together, I built firm and fast friendships with my fellow teammates. The good streak I was experiencing continued as I graduated top of my cohort with the Best in Physical Training award. It was an exhilarating feeling and one of the happiest moments of my life; I thanked God for blessing me. I was assured that this was the career the Lord wanted for me. In the second part of my training which involved jumping out of planes, I earned the stripes to become a full-fledged paratrooper.
But everything changed in a flash. It was a regular day back in camp and the weather was fine. We were told to head to the airbase in the afternoon to clock-in a jump. I proceeded as normal, reciting the jump procedures and checks in my mind as we headed to the airbase. I leaped out of the aircraft in excitement but just as I was about to touch ground, there was an abrupt change in wind direction. I landed heavily on the wrong footing and fractured my foot. All at once, my bright new beginning was shattered to pieces. My pursuit of a career in the army came to an end and it was the start of a long recovery period. I lapsed into a depressive state.
It was during that time that a good friend challenged me to keep occupied in hopes that any form of activity would take my focus away from my shattered dream. I was at a loss, nothing was worth pursuing anymore. Why would God allow me to have the time of my life, pat me on the back with an award but then take it all away? I felt like the butt of a joke (not a very funny one). That same friend suggested that I consider teaching as an option. I scoffed at the idea—I was a terrible student growing up and would never want to be at the receiving end of all that nonsense I had put my teachers through.
A few months passed and I began to feel restless. With each passing day, I felt a growing need to do something. I finally decided to give teaching a shot. I applied online to be a relief teacher at a primary school and got the position to teach for a year ( the form teacher of the class was away on maternity leave). I wasn’t too excited about the teaching opportunity but told myself to stay positive and be open to anything I could learn from the experience.
Within two months of teaching the first class I was assigned, I fell in love with both the job and the students. Teaching and interacting with the students helped me overcome my depressive state and I felt a renewed sense of purpose and direction for my life. After recovering from my injury and getting my fitness back, I asked to take on physical education classes for the school and started on a correspondence graduate program in Sports Science so that I could work and study at the same time. My goal was to complete my graduate studies and then join the Education Ministry as a full-fledged physical education teacher. This was what God was preparing me for, I told myself. I prayed to God for guidance and for opportunities to build good relationships with my students and colleagues. Things went smoother than expected for the next four years and I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing. Colleagues and family members continually affirmed my decision and lauded my passion.
After graduating with a sports degree, I applied to receive proper pedagogical training and to be emplaced as a graduate. In a second cruel twist, the ministry rejected my application for emplacement as a graduate teacher. Words cannot express the disappointment and frustration I felt after getting so close to a fresh start in my life. I felt God was being very unfair to me, slamming not just one door but two in my face. Once again, all that affirmation I had been getting all this while counted for nothing, or so it seemed.
A number of years have passed since those days. I wish I could say that God has since granted me one of my dreams but that is not the case. I’ve learned to accept that He has other plans for my life. It was during those two trying and difficult periods in my life that God humbled me and helped me see that His ways are always higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). Despite planning and relying on my strength, God showed me that He is ultimately the One in charge and I can do nothing without Him.
If you know what I am doing now, it would seem like a mismatch. Unlike my previous experiences, I don’t consider myself strong in my current role. But this is exactly what I need so I can remember that God’s grace is always sufficient in times of uncertainty and helplessness. God’s strength is best manifested through my weaknesses, just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Through it all, God has carried me and proved faithful for His glory’s sake.