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Necessary, but not sufficient

photo of a glass of water and a pen

When you take a pencil out of a glass of water, the water moves, but it is unchanged.

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Essential and Non-essential Spartans,

Sore subject? Don’t worry, I haven’t received the memo yet either.

Early in my pastorate I became proud of my work. It was a wonder that the local church survived before my hiring! I monitored over 800 members in small groups, trained group leaders, shepherded a college program with over 300 philosophically-minded college students all while maintaining the dean’s list for my graduate program. But apparently my attitude wasn’t appreciated by some of our staff, and my mentor pulled me aside to bring me back down to earth. His words still sting to this day:

Jerry, you’re necessary for this ministry, but you’re not sufficient. We’re a team.

Humbled, humiliated, confused, and convicted, I went home to my new bride to ponder the words of the wise. How did I get so selfish while serving others? My leadership decided to revector me and gave me an “opportunity” to reset. I was no longer preaching and teaching, rather, I would be ministering alongside our Urban Ministries Pastor until further notice. I was PCA’d from the pulpit to the streets, and it saved my ministry. 

Why do I share this now? Because this pandemic feels like déjà vu, spiritually speaking. We have an opportunity in our midst to reset the beliefs, principles and values that give us the very meaning and purpose we seek. If you’re the reflective type, you’ve pondered the meaning of your work, your relationships, and your training and come to the humbling conclusion that you’re necessary, but not sufficient

Imagine looking through the side of a glass of water with a pencil inside. Too much focus is on the pencil, but what happens to the water when the pencil is removed? Nothing. Absolutely nothing! Sure, a little displacement occurs, but essentially the water is unscathed, unchanged, and resilient. We’re each experiencing the humbling reality of being the lone-pencil sitting beside the glass and the discovery is that much of our identity is located within our military culture. That discovery can leave us scared, confused, humbled and even lonely. 

So here’s my challenge to each one of you, essential or not: choose for yourself this day WHO you are. Is it rank that comes to mind? How about your current title? Or is it proper noun version of you, known only by friends and family? Which identity will survive this epidemic? More importantly, which identity will survive beyond your years of service? 

I ran into a former maintenance chief at the Commissary last week. I yelled, “Hey Chief!” to which he replied, “Hello, Sir! It’s just Jason now.”  Humbling? You betcha, and we’re all headed there some day. 

Each one of us will be challenged to find meaning and purpose outside of these OCPs sooner or later. What a great opportunity to start that journey now! Stay connected to those who know you by your first name, your nickname, or your maiden name. Those connections will help you maintain an identity that can never be taken away.

In case you’re wondering, my clan knows me as Jerbear.

Blessings, 

Chaplain Stout