The Testimony of a Chaplain: Ruined

By Chaplain (Captain) Craig Honbarger


Since returning home after a 15-month deployment, I’m completely and perfectly ruined. Sure, I suppose I have changed—I’m not sure I would call it post-traumatic stress disorder, but still I’m ruined just the same.

I’m ruined in part because all of my old hobbies don’t matter much anymore. I used to strap on spandex and Styrofoam, jump on my bicycle, and ride sometimes a hundred miles a week. Those miles did not include the back-and-forth-to-work mileage and my normal physical training with the troops.

Now that I’m ruined, my bike sits with the drive chain out of tune and collecting dust. I just can’t seem to find the time to ride anymore. Instead, I chase my three little princesses around the house, secretly sneaking hugs and kisses between tickles and role-play games.

My fly-fishing pole sits with the tippet still broken from my last trip to the river. I don’t really mind so much since I’ve started spending more time in the living room. I never really liked sitcoms. But I love sitting on the couch with my wife, and I really don’t care if the television is turned on.

I’m especially ruined at church these days. It doesn’t matter how marvelous the music, whether hymns or praise songs. Nothing possesses the power to replace Christmas carols sung in a small wooden shack in a war-torn country, by people who all long to be somewhere else but find themselves unified by suffering and the celebration of the One born to end it.

I’m ruined because that congregation shared a bond so close it transcended all barriers of race and creed. The largest discriminator of any gathering required close inspection, although we all knew where to quickly find it. The little letters sown on helmet bands and written on boots identifying one as “A-Positive” and another as “O-negative”; blood of different types, united in one cause.

While the Lord’s Supper still holds a very special and vital role in my spirituality, my context for Communion has changed. Having stood on enemy soil with chalice in hand, I served as an extension of the Lord’s own hand sharing the bread and cup with troops who knew this could be their last meal this side of Heaven, their last supper with the Lord, and for some it was. Sometimes I wonder if the Lord actually meant for us to remember the Lord’s Supper as if it were our last

DARK NIGHT, SEEKING THE LIGHT

It’s truly odd, the darker the night the more we crave the light of day. The more we come to death, the more apt we become at living. Not just living for self or in some adrenaline-induced, middle-aged crisis, but with a craving and longing to finally return home.

I believe the apostle Peter describes it best when noting that a person who lives in Christ becomes an alien to this world. It’s not that we become spiritual snobs, for we are called to love; but our citizenship belongs in another place, a place where small things like the color of carpet, worship styles, and spilled milk do not exist—the only thing that matters is the vast incomparable love of Jesus Christ.

It’s my prayer that you too may come to know the experience of being ruined. That the trivial cares of this world may simply fall by the wayside, giving us ears to hear and eyes to see the better that is to come.

 


 

Capt. Craig Honbarger is a chaplain in the U.S. Army. He earned his MDiv from Emmanuel School of Religion, Johnson City, Tennessee, in 2004, and BA from Johnson Bible College, Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2001. He completed a 15-month deployment to Iraq in October 2007. Upon his return, Honbarger was assigned to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion in Dahlonega, Georgia, where he currently serves.

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