Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tear Gas and Life's Choices

Service in the military runs deep in my family.  After my great grandfather proved his worth as a war hero in the Mexican Revolution my mother's family has felt a draw toward patriotism and a deep love of country.  This sentiment led my older brother to the torturous endurance of basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina fresh out of high school.  

It was near the end of their instruction on a freezing east coast night that my brother and his buddy found themselves shivering in a foxhole while their drill sergeants lounged in a warming tent and relative luxury.  The privates had been instructed that this tent was only for the instructors and proved thoroughly off limits to those unfortunates waiting out the bitter hours of the morning.  Experience had also taught my brother that "if a drill sergeant is being nice, there is something wrong."  In the coldest hours before dawn a D.S. approached and invited all the recruits into the warming tent.  He seemed sincere enough and the night was becoming unbearable.  Joe warned his buddy to stay put but to no avail.  His buddy glanced from him to the warming tent, then back at him and finally stood up and headed toward the beckoning haven of heat.  

Joe was one of the only who refrained and a moment later, one of the instructors came to beckon him again toward the promise of heat and respite.  He asked, "What's the matter, Smith?  Ain't you cold?"

My brother responded through chattering teeth, "No, I'm pretty warm, drill sergeant."

"Heh, heh.  I bet."  The wicked expression told Joe he had made a very wise decision and the D.S. sauntered back toward the now private packed tent. 

Coming from either side simultaneously two sergeants quickly zipped closed the only entrances of the tent, trapping the suddenly terrified inmates and one threw a bomb of tear gas underneath and into the panicking crowd.  My brother watched as those inside desperately tried to pull up the stakes which held the tent in place and the entire structure shook from the many people attempting to release themselves from this unexpected and suddenly brutal situation.  My brother's buddy eventually returned to the foxhole covered in tears, mucus and heaven only knows what else.  I'm not sure if Joe rendered him an "I told you so" but I gather he probably didn't need to.

Isn't life like that?  Sometimes we know what the best course of action is.  We have heard it repeatedly; we have seen others transgress and witnessed the pain of their downfall.  And yet...sometimes we crumble.  We know the wisdom of God in commandments He gives us.  And then we see others engage in immorality unscathed for a while and perhaps we think, "Well yes, I know better but maybe just this once it will be different...."  When we feel inclined to break the rules and act against our true selves and better judgment, let us ever remember the parable of the warming tent.


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