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Step by Step

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- See if this sounds familiar. You visit a recruiter or other career advisor about joining the military. He or she paints a terrific picture of all the benefits that await you--education, plum job, etc. Then you enter Basic Military Training or Officer Training School, then on to tech school and maybe your first base. Somewhere along the line the reality check happens.

It's hard to go to school when you're working 12-hour shifts and deploy a lot. You really don't want to be at that base. That job you wanted wasn't there when you had to pick your job, so the military put you where it needed you most. The benefits are still there, but suddenly the picture isn't as rosy as it once was. You have just been introduced to the primary philosophy of military service: The needs of the (pick your branch) come first. Suddenly, you realize that it's not all about what the military can do for you, but rather what you can do for the military. This is why they call it "The Service."

But here's the good news: God is in control, even when we think all is lost. I wanted to go into a graphic-related field, but my recruiter didn't mention all the nuances of Open General. I quickly learned about the needs of the Air Force, which was to make me a security policeman. But God used that experience to lead me to where I am today, a wing chaplain. Proverbs 16:9 really is true: "The mind of man plans his ways (or tries to anyway), but the Lord directs his steps." God has directed my steps literally every step of the way, beginning with the first steps I had to take guarding a C-5 Galaxy on the flight line. And along the way, I've gotten the most out of all those benefits my recruiter told me about. It's all been good.

It's okay to make plans, but as we remember that "the needs of the (service) come first" above our own, God will lead and guide our steps to where we will get what we wanted in the first place, even "above and beyond all that we could ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). Long ago I heard someone say, "The computer may print out the orders, but God cuts them." This may be hard to believe when you're living in a tent in the desert, but this really is true. Your assignment, Air Force Specialty Code or deployment did not catch God off guard. He does lead, step by step.