A couple of years after Cynthia and I were married, I had my military obligation to fulfill. I joined the Marine Corps. After surviving boot camp and advanced infantry training, I received orders for my first tour of duty. Destination: the beautiful city of San Francisco.
Several months after getting settled there, an unexpected letter from President Dwight Eisenhower arrived in the mail. It was a speed letter, informing me that my location would soon change. Destination: the remote island of Okinawa. I did just what you would have done—I checked the envelope to make sure it went to the right person. And yes, it was addressed to me. My whole frame of reference changed. The two of us wept ourselves to sleep that night. That tour of duty would take me away for sixteen long months from Cynthia, early in our marriage. Little did I realize that those many months would change my life. What I considered to be the most God-awful letter became the most God-ordained statement for me.
As I left, my older brother shoved a book in my hand titled, Through Gates of Splendor. It was the story of five young missionaries who lost their lives, and whose widows went on with their lives, ultimately evangelizing the Auca Indians in Ecuador. I read that book on the troopship, sailing for seventeen days from San Diego to Japan, and then on down to Okinawa. As a result, my mind stopped resisting for the first time since I’d received that letter. My entire frame of reference changed yet again. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to think, “Maybe there’s a plan here.”
A man I later met on the island gave me a copy of the Amplified New Testament. I read that little book about three times before I left Okinawa. He had circled one verse: Philippians 3:10. In that version it read, “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him—that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly.”
On Okinawa, at the U. S. government’s expense, I had my first exposure to international missions. Away from all the crutches—all those things that made me comfortable, dulled my edge, along with all things familiar. For the first time I was enveloped in another culture. For the first time I was the foreigner. I found myself again and again having to look up and to learn a whole new way of walking. As a result, far removed from my comfort zone, I progressively became “more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.” That intimate acquaintance introduced me to His heart for the whole world. That, too, was a first for me.
Jesus chose to leave the adoration of angels and make his dwelling among humans. Why? Because “God so loved the world.” Are you becoming intimately acquainted with Him? Are you making Him known? Are your circumstances difficult? It’s okay—allow Him to make you uncomfortable. It is in unexpected and difficult circumstances that we are poised to see the relevance of His Word for the needs of His world.