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Monday, 13 February 2017

No Soldier Left Behind!

It can be very difficult to stand out from the crowd, to do something that makes you look or act different from what is considered 'normal' (whatever that is).

The Salvation Army soldier is I think the embodiment of this. It requires the strength of will and courage to be different, to look a little odd in other people's eyes, to make life choices that people won't always understand; things like not drinking or gambling etc, the visible stuff. I wonder if sometimes when we put on the uniform we are saying to people: 'We have made it. We are complete Christians.' The trouble, I think is that becoming a Salvation Army soldier has become the destination rather than the journey. We celebrate (and rightly so) the decision and commitment of people signing the 'Soldiers Covenant' we clap, we pray, we give words of encouragement, and this is all great; It truly is. But the difficulty I think is keeping up this encouragement in the days, weeks, months, years, even decades that follow.

Now just to clarify; I am not singling out Soldiers over adherents or other members, we are all one Army, I don't consider Soldiers any more blessed or called to serve than anyone else, that being said, there is a difference, a different call and mission. But they are not greater or less than other members, this post applies to everyone, member/Adherent/Soldier etc (and of course every other group of Christians or probably any group of people really). let's keep in mind that soldiership is not for everyone, it doesn't fit with everyone's' personal theological outlook or lifestyle... And that's ok!

Life gets busy, Church gets busy, and slowly life takes over. This is a personal post because I know I am guilty of letting life take over, of not being as supportive in the long run, of not praying as often as I should for those soldiers and adherents that I have seen make their commitments to God through the Salvation Army. I also know that I am poor at receiving encouragement, in that I often, without realising, isolate myself, partly due to work commitments which keep me away from always attending on a Sunday and my own introverted nature which causes me to try and be as private, guarded and self sufficient as I can, not opening up and both giving and receiving encouragement.

We are a family, we must work together, sometimes we have to put ourselves out there and be an active part of this family. I know this doesn't come easily or naturally to many people (myself included) but let me tell you something that should be obvious but took me longer than it should to realise... People are not mind readers, they are busy, they have stressful jobs and home lives...they have a million and one things that need attention and focus, as we all do. But let's be clear that doesn't mean that they do not care about you, or that they won't be there for you in a heartbeat if you need them.

My home Corps (Church), is quite large & very busy, everyone has lots to do and sort out; Sunday's can quite easily become the busiest day of the week, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. I wouldn't be too surprised if some people found me a little arrogant or aloof, or perhaps a bit of a mystery and don't really understand or know me, I'm sure I'm not the only one. I do think that this is the flip side of a big corps, yes it's active, yes it's probably financially stable but it can be so easy for members, Adherents and Soldiers to slip through the cracks, to lose themselves in busyness or to become lost in the shuffle.

There are some absolutely amazing people in my home Corps; Godly, faithful, devoted and Inspirational men and women of God. I'm sure this is true of most Corps, and most Churches. But to the introvert, you and I can be inspirational men and women of God and encouraging to others...but if you're like me, you would rather be in the background away from the limelight. That is not our call to make, it is a waste of our God given gifts, knowledge, talent and revelation to lock ourselves away. Remember that just because someone seems like they've 'made it' or they're the most outgoing extroverted person you could ever meet, we are all fighting our own individual battles and need each other.

This then is the challenge: in all the busyness of an active Corps, remember that community and fellowship is a two way street, it is not acceptable to separate yourself (intentionally or unintentionally) and  simply 'exist' within the community of faith, and perhaps disappear off the radar and then blame others for how we feel. those of us who are introverted that means recognising our own value, it means finding the strength to go beyond the 'I'm fine' level of community and regardless of how difficult we may find it; actively seeking and building true community and fellowship, being open even when we want to hide ourselves away; And remembering as I said above, that we are all fighting our own battles and truly need each other...for the extrovert it requires effort as well. It requires pushing us sometimes reluctantly through the 'I'm fine' stages, not letting us get away with quick conversation stoppers because I assure you, we do not separate ourselves because we don't care, or because we don't love you as family... We just take a bit longer to feel comfortable expressing it, but as you care and support us and would be there for us in any situation, we are all those things too.

Without this community we are only living a half life, together we are one body, complete and fit for the mission God calls us to. Each of us has our part to play, we are one people, one Church, One Army.

As 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 reminds us:

'But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.'

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

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