On the Quarterdeck

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Did the suffering stop? No. It actually got worse. The commands of what exercise to do next sped up and intensified for both of us. The Guide was allowing himself to be smoked with me.

At Parris Island, US Marine Recruits enter a world where any emotion to negative stimuli is forbidden. Any emotion other than intensity is a threat. "You will not laugh; you will not cry" is indeed an order. The first and only time I can recall emotions spilling out like a dam bursting without repercussions was at the first chapel service of Recruit Training. After several days of non-stop stress-inducing interaction with Drill Instructors, my platoon was allowed to have an unmolested moment to ourselves as we worshiped. As soon as familiar "gospel" songs from childhood memory were sung, the emotions flowed like a fountain.

The most popular song at chapel was "This Little Light of Mine." The lyrics were changed to represent the experience of the Recruit at Parris Island. "On the quarterdeck, I'm gonna let it shine" "Facedown in the pit, I'm gonna let it shine" was shrieked by fresh Recruits with sobs and squeaks from destroyed vocal cords courtesy of non-stop screaming for days.

If you were on the "quarterdeck," you were being disciplined, whether you deserved it or not. Only a handful of Recruits could fit on the quarterdeck in a barracks squad bay. Pushups, running in place, sit-ups, jumping jacks, all kinds of jacks are done by the recruit on the quarterdeck until the DI gets tired. This is referred to as "being smoked" by the DI. The "pit" is basically a quarterdeck outside of the squad bay that has enough space where the whole platoon of roughly 60 recruits can be "smoked." So if the "little light of yours" is still shining on the quarterdeck and while in the pit, your faith must be HUGE. Or so our prideful confessions communicated when we sang these lyrics about ourselves.

I could critique hymns that sing about ourselves other than Christ. That is a huge problem in Christianity today. I could address the mistaken emphasis on the strength of one's faith at the expense of who one's faith is in. That has burned out many Christians and may have created many atheists today. But first, allow me to use this analogy for a different topic.

One day I was being smoked on the quarterdeck and my body was beginning to fail to do what my DI was yelling at it to do. All of a sudden I noticed that someone else had joined me on the quarterdeck. It was the Guide. The Guide is the "leader" of the recruits promoted by the DIs. He is not a DI; he is a fellow recruit in the platoon. He is punished far more severely than any of the other recruits. Some may even suggest that being promoted to "Guide" is more punishment than reward. When the Guide chose to join me in my suffering, something changed.

Did the suffering stop? No. It actually got worse. The commands of what exercise to do next sped up and intensified for both of us. The Guide was allowing himself to be smoked with me. My relationship with the Guide was far different from there on out.

On an infinitely larger level, a similar peace and comfort is offered in our suffering in this life. Not only did Christ suffer on the cross for you, but he suffers with you. God never promised in scripture to remove all suffering this side of heaven. But he promised to never leave you and never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus never promised that your faith would be at champion Christian size. But he promised that when you were faithless he would remain faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). Do you suffer from fear wondering if your faith is good enough? Do not be afraid. Jesus is the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). The faith that you need to have in Christ is given to you as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When it feels like God is off on vacation as we suffer know this: that Christ has suffered and has experienced the silence of God for you (Matthew 27:46). Do not despair if God does not relieve you of your suffering right now. Take heart that Christ is with you, in your suffering. Find hope in all of God's promises, even in the "not yet." Suffering, for those in Christ, will not last forever (Revelation 21:4-5).

More good news for the baptized child of God. Even if this doesn't provide the peace you are looking for right now, it does not influence or break the promise that Christ is with you. His promises to you are independent of your feelings for him. He will never leave you or forsake you no matter your hurt, anger towards him, confusion and or crisis of faith. Even if it feels like you have grown apart from Jesus, you have been united and crucified with him (Romans 6:4-5; Galatians 2:20).

This little light of yours is better than you think it is. It is not even you but, Christ. This light from the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for you shines whether you "let it" or not. It even promises to shine when you blow it big time. When you are too weak to shine while suffering, Christ suffered to shine bright for you.