The Lord’s Army Reserve

I once had the choice to be a full-time soldier, or live my life and be a soldier too. I chose… wisely. That choice has shaped my life, mostly for the better. However, when I look at how that same choice could be overlaid on my life as a Christian, maybe being a Reservist isn’t the right way to go.

When I was a young-un, I joined the United States Army Reserve. My uncle and grandfather had both served in the Army and I had, and have, a deep love for my country and our freedom. It had also occurred to me that my parents weren’t wealthy, and I wasn’t likely to be able to afford to go to college. So I committed to 2 summers of intense training and 6 years of weekends to serve my country. All in exchange for the promise of college money and to follow my internal call to adventure and service.

I look back fondly on my time served. I learned a ton. I grew in strength, discipline, and skill. While I was both physically and mentally prepared to fight, I was never deployed. We were fortunate enough to be in a time of relative peace. I finished my term of service honorably and relinquished the service to my past. I am a veteran.

These many years later. When asked if I’m a veteran, I hedge my answer. When someone asks veterans to stand, I hesitate. Am I really a veteran if I never fought? I was eager to go, but the opportunity didn’t arise. I tend to judge myself based on my own comparison to those who were full-time soldiers. The professional fighters. Why hadn’t I signed up as a full-time warrior?

Why? Because I didn’t want to be a full-time, professional fighter. I had other aspirations of going to school. Being married and having a family. Working and living in my hometown. It was enough for me that I was ready and willing to serve if needed, but I didn’t want to commit my whole life to it.

As I wrestle with my own feelings around this, it dawned on me. I can often be a Reserve Christian. Ouch! It hurts a lot to think about it, but it’s true.

I said “Yes” to Jesus and signed away my life. In my early passion, I set aside the world and did spiritual boot camp. I established spiritual disciplines. Excited to fight the enemy and never again be under the weight of sin, I learned all I could. I envisioned helping to rescue all my friends and family. I wanted to help recruit others too.

Then time went by. I remembered all the things I wanted to accomplish. The dreams of success and praise of others began to take more and more of my thoughts and time. And before I knew it, I had become a Reserve in The Lord’s Army. I only train on weekends and occasional calls to action. I dream of being a professional fighter sometimes but know I’m not needed yet, so I focus on my “real” life.

Paul Cushing in Army gear.
Yeah, that’s me in 1996.

What would it look like to shift that mindset? That’s all I’m talking about. It’s in our frame of mind. What if we saw ourselves as professional fighters? Professional Christians with part-time lives? What if we trained as though we needed to daily use the skills and tactics God gives us? Would we prepare better and be more disciplined? Can I invert my thinking to ensure that my world comes after my service to God?

I’m speculating. I don’t know all the answers yet. But I think part of the answer lies in Romans 12:2 (ESV).

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I was fortunate enough to serve in the Army at a time when there was relative peace. In God’s army, there isn’t any such thing. We always have a need for the skills and disciplines that He’s giving us. It’s a sacrifice. It’s not easy. But I want to be full-time, committed, and all-in.

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