Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for September 2011

Some of you will have followed Padre Tracey’s journey through pregnancy on the pages of this blog. You will be pleased to learn that said ‘bump’ is now a healthy baby boy doing his best to keep mum and dad awake. Tracey’s last offering before maternity leave teaches us something about the nature of waiting. It reminds me of a profound theological reflection written by W H Vanstone titled ‘The Stature of Waiting’, but more of this another time. Tracey writes:

The reply to the endless question? Any News Yet? Has the Baby come??

‘Love is kind, love is patient, love is gentle’. I have read these words many times at weddings but the past few weeks have alerted me to them in a different context – waiting to give birth. I took two weeks off before he was due, sure he was coming early – he was a good size and all had been going very well (and I thought giving birth amongst Soldiers would be traumatising for all concerned!). In those two weeks I did all things that needed doing and some that did not, such as re-organising my DVD’s and at the point of tidying the spice rack I knew things were going to be tough…thankfully swimming each day gave me something to hang the day on! And then it was the Due-Day and Nothing…and the next day and the next day…and now we’re at D-Day +7!

I reasoned with humour that my womb was too comfortable and too cosy a place to be, laughing with my husband that our child was going to be a pot holer as he enjoyed damp dark places. I then went through the baby blues early…D-Day +3 I was totally fed up. I had stopped swimming, not really wanting the pool to have to shut because of my waters breaking, I tried to stay in bed longer so the day wasn’t so long and I smiled politely when many people told me to make the most of having time off without a screaming infant…but I felt I was slowly gong mad…

Don’t get me wrong, I have spent more time with God and it’s been a good time to catch up on trying to read the Bible in a Year, although on one morning I was bemused as throughout the Book of Jeremiah there are far too many references to the pain of childbirth!! I have spent time in prayer and in the stillness and quiet have reflected a lot on the return of Jesus and how we don;t know when hat will be either – but I will leave those reflections until the season of Advent. I have prayed more for people I know who are house bond, bed bound, terminally ill and how truly hard it is for all people who are ill, trapped and unable to live as they would prefer…

Throughout all of this I have also been very thankful for my husband’s presence and stoicism. He has been amazing – of course at times everything has been his fault, but he has tried to be there for me, going for strolls, playing games, forfeiting some things he would prefer to do just in case I go into labour. But at the times when everything has been his fault, I have been mindful of many people within our Military community who would love for their partners to be with them rather than serving on Operations.

So my Patience has been truly tested, my being kind and gentle to a bump who is just too lazy to move has been tested…but still we wait for God’s perfect timing…

Is it theologically sound to pray; ‘Thy will be done…but please hurry up?’

‘In the Belly of the Beast’

It was totally dark inside the huge C17 Globemaster transporter aircraft as we made our decent into Bastion. The lights had been extinguished and we sat there perspiring in our helmets and body armour.

The journey had been fairly uncomfortable from the outset with our seats on rails in the centre of the aircraft, closely packed together like sardines and sharing an aroma not unlike the little salted fish! The air heavy with heat and fatigue, that accumulates on these long hauls. But this unpleasantness had been mitigated in part by being able to read and listen to the serenades of your iPod, but with the onset of darkness there was nothing left to focus on but the journey itself.

It was as I did such that I realised just how similar this scene was to the situation that a certain Old Testament Prophet found himself in. He had attempted to run away from the will of the Almighty only to find himself becoming whale food, and there deep in the belly of that mammal behemoth he was given time to reflect in the putrid air, his situation and God’s direction.

I peered into the semi darkness, lit only by a myriad of bright lights indicating secrets to only those trained to interpret, and wondered at the construction of this huge beast, that could actually swallow a helicopter let alone a little army padre! The metal frame creaked under the burden of both thrust and lift as it carried it cargo closer to the desert airstrip. Unfamiliar noises like whale song echoed around the cavern, creaks and groaning of fatigued metal alongside the whirling’s of motors responding to the pilot’s subtle touch. Lights flickered, and wheels thudded into place, eager to touch tarmac. Flaps struggled with air eddies to slow the beast on its approach and like Jonah; I was trapped, strapped into my seat, being taken somewhere but unable to input direction or course.

I was at the mercy of this huge beast, but none of that concerned me. For though I could not change course, or stop this decent into the desert, I knew that this direction was one chosen for me by God. Although I shared some of the ancient prophet’s misgivings, I was not seeking to run away from my calling, but just had to sit here in the belly of this aircraft until it reached my destination. There was no point being worried, God was in control, and his plan was being worked out and while I could struggle and fret, imagine and waste countless hours on concerns, what was the point? I know my God and he knows me and not only is He great and mighty but He is good and loving, a perfect combination and assurance for the fearful follower.

So wash over me strange noises in the dark, flickering lights of uncertainty in the heat of fatigue and travel. I know the doors will soon open and the stale air will be lost in the fresh air of my desert home. Air that has lost most of the day’s heat and although not cool and English in origin, has become pleasantly familiar as the smell of the place God wishes me to be.

Padre Cole Maynard