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River of life carries us through deployment

  • Published
  • By Chap. (Capt.) Paul Joyner
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Chaplain
As you make your way past the middle of October, maybe your thoughts carry you back to a place where life is not filled with such interesting events such as the kind that occur here on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Fall brings to our minds various sights, sounds and smells. Where I come from in South Carolina, the leaves on the trees begin changing color during this time of year. Of course, yellow, orange and brown leaves splash the area with abundant color. People still burn leaves in their yard creating quite an aroma.

As the holidays approach, people begin making plans to travel, visit relatives and revive special traditions unique to their family. They talk about what gifts they want to surprise their kids with, what food they will celebrate with and their hopes for a favorite football team to play well. Children anxiously await their holiday break from school and people seem to take on a more gracious attitude in general.

But we are here. We work many long hours and some people work without a day off. There are missions to conduct, sorties to fly and "taskers" that need accomplishing. People are being stressed to their limits and sleep can be a rare commodity. Plus, there aren't any trees here to see changing color. No real gifts to shop for to surprise our loved ones. No children around to generate excitement about the holiday break and none of us will be cooking our own special meals (well, at least I don't think so). No, what we get is more rocket attacks and more transfer cases wrapped in American flags. What a contrast! How are we ever going to make it?

If you don't know already, life will always provide an opportunity to exercise our faith. We live and work here at KAF while our friends and families are "back home" living a comfortable life without the difficulties related to being deployed. They are enjoying the benefits of being safe and secure without fear of injury or attack. When we choose to exercise our faith and remember that God has a purpose to everything He brings into our life, then we can handle the difficult moments more easily.

Consider this analogy: all our lives we spend paddling a kayak down a river. At some spots the rapids are difficult and challenging, even frightening. We paddle and paddle and we really accomplish nothing. The river propels us, throwing us into rocks, into deep holes and sometimes flipping us, causing us to struggle and fight so we can right ourselves. These rapids can last a long time or can be just a short encounter. Some rapids are easier than others and with each battle though the rapids, our skills at negotiating them increase. Our ability to work the rapids grows after each set, creating greater maturity and wisdom in dealing with the tough spots of the river. Once through the rapid we come out encouraged having overcome the obstacle. Occasionally we need to look for calm waters along the bank to rest and catch our breath before continuing on, but back down the river we must go. The river is continually moving us down to where it meets a lake, where calm, slow waters gather. By the time we reach the lake there is not one single rapid on the river that we were not been able to overcome and conquer.

God has not designed your river to defeat you, but rather to strengthen you and give you confidence along the way. The river is challenging yes, but not impossible. Don't let a few rapids scare you into giving up and drowning ... get back in your kayak and take on the challenges the rapids bring. You may just find that the river (your life) will provide you with tons of excitement and fun. So go out there, my friends, and paddle on and I'll see you on the river!