Around the Corner
Battling the Unexpected
By Chaplain (MAJ) Kevin Trimble
Sometimes, things simply aren’t what they seem. Sometimes, it’s like waking up from a dream and realizing what you’re doing and where you are simply wasn’t part of last month’s plan. I have recently found myself in that place, and I’m sure you have as well.
The COVID-19 crisis has changed everyone’s lives. Some of you have lost loved ones, friends, and even endured tragedy just prior to or after the crisis began. On March 10, 2020, I finished a week of training in New York City and came home for the weekend to finish packing. Then, I boarded a plane from Savannah, Georgia, to Warsaw, Poland, for a short three-month training called Defender 2020. My Brigade, the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, (ABCT) from the 3rd Infantry Division (ID) based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, had been planning this large exercise for over a year.
The exercise brought together over 10,000 soldiers from the United States and many NATO partners. Little did I realize I would be one of the last people to leave New York City prior to the closing of all flights in and out of the country for many weeks.
When we arrived at the training area, we did not know our careful planning of the past year was about to change. We had no idea the austere airfield, intended as a temporary base, was about to become our home for the next nine months. Yet, here we are—prepped for three months, now staying nine. Things definitely didn’t go according to plan!
As a runner, it felt as though I had signed up for a sprint or a 5K, only to show up on race day to find myself in a marathon. I hadn’t brought enough clothes, didn’t have the right shoes, and had so many activities planned for my return home, mid-June.
Once again, I was reminded that much of life is like this. You sign up for a happy marriage, only to find out your spouse is unfaithful. You’re stuck. You work hard for a college degree only to graduate and realize jobs are scarce. You’re stuck. You long for a beautiful baby, and life takes a painful turn. You feel stuck. Repeatedly, we sign up for a sprint and find ourselves running a difficult marathon.
Contemplating this dilemma one morning during a long run, the Father began to speak to me, reminding me there are ways to deal with this situation. I can complain, whine, cry out, and make myself and others miserable. Not a good choice! Instead, let me suggest simple ways to battle the unexpected in our lives:
Push ahead. Over the next few weeks, as reality sank in for our brigade, my ministry team (one chaplain and one chaplain assistant) stood in the gap to bring hope and grace to families at home and abroad. I found solace in the great truths of God’s Word. When I am most weak, isn’t God stronger (2 Corinthians 12:9)? I remember committing Scripture to memory morning after morning and reminding myself of passages I had already memorized. In times of need, I also cling to the great hymns of the faith.
Pace myself. As is true in any marathon, it is foolhardy to begin running at top speed. A long-distance race requires nine months of training, and I learn to pace myself. The same is true in life. It requires a deliberate time in the Scriptures, a plan to reach out to family, a rest cycle, and strategies for self-care. The Apostle Paul reminded me several times over the last few weeks: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1, 2a). Pace is important.
Pause to think. The last five years of ministry in the chaplaincy have proven very tiring for my wife Darla and me. We have gone from the fast pace of Green Beret School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to a year of schooling at Fort Leavenworth, to the last year of incredibly busy ministry at Fort Stewart. Field time, pastoring a chapel on post, leading seven teams, and creating small group ministries has left us very busy.
However, a marathon gives you time to think. Sometimes you pray, sometimes you reflect, sometimes you sing, and yes, sometimes you wonder why you signed up. This rotation, difficult as it has been, has given me time to think. I find great strength when I “think on these things” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Focus on people. During a long race, you meet people you never see again, or you find a new friend and run with him or her a while. Sometimes, you find someone running at your pace, who will encourage you to the finish line. One would naturally think I am focusing on people all the time, and yes, I do. Too often, we focus on the process, the plan, the building, the initiatives, but we forget to focus on people.
At the battalion level, I have had many opportunities for ministry: to reach out to people, to get to know them and truly pastor. At the brigade level, I am a staff officer. Yes, still a chaplain, but I have people to supervise and train, concepts to create, presentations to build—you know how it goes.
As I reflect, I’m learning to praise the Father in new ways. I am also enjoying and listening to the beauty of nature as the Lord is teaching me so many new truths that are to His glory and ultimately, the benefit of the Kingdom. As I stood with my commander, I realized our present situation in Poland was touching everyone. All had been affected. Every family somewhere would have a reaction, and yet, all were in this race together. My goal for the balance of this deployment will be to “run alongside” others on this journey, to share the courage and encouragement of Christ.
About the Writer: Chaplain (Major) Kevin Trimble is currently stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Trimble holds a doctorate in Theology and, while deployed to Afghanistan, completed an M.A. in Religion from Randall University. He has earned numerous awards including the Bronze Star and the Army Achievement Medal. Learn more about Free Will Baptist chaplain ministry: FWBNAM.com/chaplaincy.