The Joy of Enduring “The Suck”

By Graham Glover

I recently returned from a 2-week field exercise with my Soldiers. Apart from being away from my family, sleeping in a 1-man pup tent, not showering, and eating more MREs than my digestive tract prefers – it was a phenomenal time of training with my new Battalion.

There are many things an Army chaplain can do to earn the trust and respect of his Soldiers, to include, above all, being a faithful man of God. But living with them in their training environment – enduring the “suck” that everyone experiences while in the field, is one of the best ways for a Soldier to realize that where they go, their chaplain goes – when they suffer, their chaplain does so as well. This in turn creates a bond which is almost impossible to duplicate in a garrison environment, allowing ministry to flourish in ways practically unimaginable. And even though I smelled, didn’t sleep much, and felt my age more than ever before, I could not have asked for a more ideal means to fulfill my vocation as an Army chaplain.

This short field exercise was like every one that preceded it, to include those that lasted much longer, and of course, those times deployed to a warzone. These are, without question, times of great joy, even when they suck.

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Look, I oftentimes sigh when planning for a training exercise or a deployment. There are many things one will never look forward to during these times. Even though I know joy will result, it is sometimes hard to get excited about the suck I know I am about to experience. But there is nothing like the field – nothing that compares to deploying with Soldiers, where you literally get to work, eat, and sleep alongside those entrusted to your spiritual care. In so many ways, it is the perfect place to do ministry. It is, quite literally, 24/7 ministry.

I’d like to think that chaplains, in particular Army chaplains, have a corner on the market of enduring the suck of their flock. But this is hardly the case. All of us that have been called to ministry – in whatever form that entails – are called to minister in the “field”. We are called to endure the suck of our people and to live alongside those to whom we minister. Our Lord did this and we who call ourselves His disciples, should do so as well.

This might not be comfortable. It might stretch our limits. To get our boots dirty, to have the demands of ministry pull us away from our families and outside our comfort zones, is not something we necessarily seek out. But it is in these times and in these places, when we meet people in their most rare form – tired, hungry, lonely, and afraid – that we can proclaim the incredible joy of the Gospel. It’s not that these are the only times where the Gospel can and should be proclaimed. Indeed, the Good News of salvation should always be upon our lips. But the Word cannot reach the lost only when standing in a pulpit. The Sacraments cannot be administered only when presiding at the font, the confessional, or the altar of the sanctuaries that our congregations have built. Rather, these gifts of God ought also to be brought in and among God’s people – wherever they are and whenever they desire them.

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To deliver these goods, as my peers here at The Jagged Word have commended so many times before, one must be where God’s people are – in the field, amidst the suck. For it is only there that these precious gifts of Christ can confer the graces that we all so desperately need. And it is then that joy will be given. An eternal joy that knows no boundaries. An everlasting joy that allows each of us to endure the suck of our sinful world.

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7 thoughts on “The Joy of Enduring “The Suck”

  1. Well said Graham! Kind of a ” band of brothers” idea. Price of admission high but well worth it. What you are describing does not happen parked behind the computer in your office or looking for reasons why you should not visit the nursing homes or hospitals. I knew you’d turn out ok.

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  2. That’s awesome that you’re going to the field with your unit. I don’t think I ever saw a chaplain do that when I was in. We rarely heard from or saw the guy. I’m not really sure what he did with his time. Put on a ruck sack and march with them the next time they do 20 miles. Ask for an opportunity to shoot the 240 Bravo. If you can, run the lanes with them once or twice in training. If you do those things, you will definitely earn their respect, no doubt, especially since you’re an officer, and even 11B officers don’t do that kind of stuff most of the time.

    I’m glad to hear you’re willing to go out to the field with them. The stuff that sucks the most at the time, is typically the best bonding experience, and the guys respect the other dudes who endure those times with them, in a way that makes everyone else an outsider. The suckiest times also often turn into the best memories, because you have to rely on your buddies for humor to get you through the pain. Humor is always the best medicine in the Army. Learn to make the men laugh when everything sucks and they’ll love having you around.

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    1. Ken, I’ve gone to the field with my Soldiers for 8 years. I can’t imagine not being where they are.

      I’m all about the ruck march and running lanes with my guy (they love to “protect” the chaplain). Wish I could fire the 240B. Need to be careful about that though…I am a non-combatant!

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      1. Its great you’re doing that. It seems like you’re a rare breed in the chaplain corps, but maybe it was just my experience that was out of the ordinary. I was with 2nd Ranger Batt out of Fort Lewis, and Rangers are definitely a bit different. Maybe we were just so over the top with our demented songs about torture and S&M and our constant abuse of PFCs that even the chaplaincy didn’t want anything to do with us! Lol. Its especially strange that I went from that environment to fundamentalist Christianity. Maybe that’s why I never fit in there.

        Anyways, thanks for your service. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Dear Graham. I think inremember some of the oders from the field as well as the gym sweat. Those shreds allspice indeed, but you did not just smell, after two weeks, well Martha of old described it best in describing her deaf brother Lazarus —- you stunk! But your message was well appreciated.

    Paul

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  4. In Vietnam during 1967-68, I rarely saw a chaplain among the Marines, however, while in the sick bay being treated for dysentery, I met one. He asked me if I would like to talk. I was too sick. But seeing him reminded me to pray. I think there were times I would have liked to talk to a chaplain, but even among everyday Marines, on occasion I would meet a believer and we could share our faith, if not briefly. Thank you for your service as a chaplain and a soldier.

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