BIMI

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Iraq and Afghanistan, in the field for training or away for duty or other training. Without even realizing it, I found myself in the rat race of life and worried more about possible promotions and flying upside down. I was miserable. Our family has moved 9 times in the past 16 years, which alone is time consuming. Speaking of family, I think it safe to say that most people dream about what they picture their future to look like…home, spouse, kids, pets, career, etc. I know my wife and I did. Ironically, the older I get, the less the developing picture looks like the still-frame I had originally envisioned. However, God’s picture is what’s coming into focus and it’s so much better than I’d ever be able to dream of. My dreams would have never included a miscarriage, years of medically unexplained infertility and the pain and heartache accompanied by each of these. Yet, without having gone through these difficulties, I may never have had the opportunity to understand what adoption is all about. Our lives have been changed forever, twice over, due to the miracle of adoption. We’ve also been able to walk down some difficult paths with others experiencing the same trials. Life is short. We have had several friends, our age or younger, pass away in the last few years. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. Let those you love know that you love them…today!  Life is more a marathon than a constant sprint…pace yourself! The old adage “It’s better to burn out than to rust out” is terribly deceiving…both burning out and rusting out lead to the same results…. you’re out! In 2009, I ran a marathon in Virginia Beach. As I passed the halfway point (13.1 miles) I was ready to call it a day. Then, I passed a hotel marquee that read, “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever!” At that very moment, I determined, I was not going to quit. I had trained too hard for too long not to complete what I started. I just couldn’t! In life, we can easily get so worn down that we just want to throw in the towel. The towel may be your ministry, marriage, family aspirations, career, something too personal to share, and maybe even your very faith. Life can rock us harder than we can ever think possible. Often we begin to question God as the walls start closing in. “Friends” and family may abandon us and the organized church may even condemn us for “not having enough faith.” Can I remind you that many biblical heroes, from both ancient and more modern times have battled the same “demons” in their own lives? God is faithful and has promised to NEVER leave us! If you’re there today, take heart—you’re never alone even in the darkest times. If you’re tired of sprinting, it’s okay to walk. It’s also okay to sit and rest a while until you are renewed.  Ministry work, whether vocational or voluntary, is rewarding…but if you sacrifice any of the above areas, for any reason, you’ve missed the point. Many people of faith have had an amazing impact on my life. Sadly, some of these have later abandoned ship, spiritually speaking. Some have become so focused on peripheral elements or on building their own kingdom, they have lost their ministry, marriage or their children, often for good. The need to keep a vibrant relationship with God, followed by a healthy family can’t be stressed enough. ‘ We will all face overwhelming personal struggles… there’s no way around it. Don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses or failures. It’s okay to ask for help! What you do with these struggles is your choice! During the last few years, due to several factors, including deployments and work stress, I have been in a personal battle with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. I’ll never forget the Sunday morning that a fellow chaplain (a colonel that I didn’t know very well at the time) came up to me after I finished preaching and asked if I’d seen anyone about my PTSD. I blew him off and told him that I felt fine. A few weeks later, he followed up and asked me when my appointment was. Not having made one, I took this as my cue to get on the ball and meet with someone to discuss the issues I was dealing with. This was literally the start of a life changing period of time. In December 2014, I came home from work one night to an amazing dinner and dessert. Then my wife told me she wanted to talk about something. (I immediately thought she must have wrecked the van!) She said, “I called the Pastor today.” I asked, “For what?” She said, “To set up a time to meet with him. If you don’t want to come with me, I’m still going by myself. I can’t live like this anymore.” I instantly became internally angry and stormed off. I didn’t say much to my wife over the next few days, but I knew she was right. Enough was enough. I had put my family through torment, but no one on the outside had any idea. It was time to give it all up and start on the road to restoring a new normal in life. I am forever grateful to my wife, my Pastor and to a few dear family members and friends who were willing to walk the path with me. Thank God for forgiveness, restoration and second chances! A final word: As I hit the top of the hill, I have no idea what the future holds. However, I do know that God is faithful, and I can rest in the fact that His way is best. I pray these ramblings of an aging (note: I’m not old) man may speak some truth that will impact your life. Pro Deo et Patria! For God and Country! Chaplain (CPT) Cliff Jones (CB I ’96, SM ’97, CB II ’98) is a chaplain in the US Army Reserves and for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in New Jersey. He and his wife, Wendy, advocate for the importance of adoption in the church. 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