A special thanks to Blue Shepard for allowing me to publish his weekly e-newsletter here on Vigilant Wolf. The Blue Shepard is a friend and past guest of Ever Vigilant podcast (episode 43). I personally look forward to his weekly thoughts on Christianity, Manhood, and Brotherhood and I believe you will feel the same.
One thing about peppers: they love their gear. Prolonged and early exposure to Law Enforcement and emergency services, and being raised with a "here today, gone tomorrow" mindset, have predisposed me to various applications of a mindset I like to call, "Chuck it".
I was raised by Christian parents from infancy. The fragility of life was a prevailing theme in our devotions. My mother would routinely reinforce mental preparation for the possibility of persecution with "If/Then" statements and questions. I have discussed with some of you before how the trivial pains of life were mitigated by statements such as, "Some Christians have had their finger nails pulled out so they would renounce Jesus. If you can't even take shutting your finger in the car door, what are you going to do if they torture you because you're a Christian?" A further saturation with the doctrine of the imminence of Christ's return to earth, and Pentecostal fire and brimstone preaching of the universality of death gave life itself an air of being disposable. When I was 13 years old, mortality seemed of little consequence and but a vehicle to pass from uncertainty into God's holy presence. By age 16 a righteous death seemed downright glorious.
When I was just three years old, hurricane Fran flooded my parents' home. At the time, the recommended treatment was to ventilate, minimally renovate, and resume life as usual. Around age 9 or so my family began to notice a pattern of health problems. My mother, my brother, and myself all had respiratory issues. I remember coming down sick one day and running a high fever. My mother took me to our family pediatrician. For a large portion of my life I had seemed prone to developing Pneumonia over night, so this was not altogether new. I got out of the car, took a few steps, and coughed not unusually - except this cough produced a red spatter on the sidewalk between my feet. My mother immediately began to panic. After some examination and testing, I was admitted to a local hospital with mycoplasmal pneumonia. I, my mother, and my brother were diagnosed with other respiratory issues. My father, however, seemed to have an impervious immune system.
Because my brother and I were home-schooled, and my mother stayed at home and schooled us, the only common denominator was home time. Testing of our home environment revealed the presence of toxic mold, which was akin to the infamous Black Mold, being circulated through our ventilation system. The primary concentration was in the end of our home which had flooded during Fran. Because so much time had passed, however, the insurance company accepted no claim. This mold had been slowly killing us, and had claimed nearly everything we owned. The home itself, curtains, bedding, blankets, and any clothe toys or materials that were capable of bearing moisture were subject to bearing this deadly spore. Some items we were able to save through treatment with ultraviolet light and denatured alcohol, but the majority of our lives' sentimental possessions had to be discarded or burned, and we were dependent on extended family for housing for quite some time.
At age 13 I began to study martial sciences and train one-on-one with my personal sifu and friend. I trained extensively in Wing Chun Kung Fu, Shaolin Chin Na and Japanese Kendo, and studied such martial arts as Jeet Kun Do, Philosophical Gung Fu, Krav Maga and others. Certain principles which seemed universal to most philosophical fighting styles were serenity in the midst of chaos, accaptence of loss and hardship, and coming to terms with mortality. In studying Kendo, I was assigned to read Go Rin No Sho (The Book Of Five Rings), by Myamoto Mushashi. A widely used quote from Musashi's work struck me deeply. "The way of the warrior is the resolute acceptance of death."
When I was very young I became intrigued with law enforcement. At age 16 I joined a local Police Explorer post. At this early age I began fraternal relationships that would indoctrinate me with mindsets and concepts foreign to even most yearling police officers. At age 17, I had received such an exposure to the gory realities of human society that I found it hard to relate to nearly any of my peers. I had a certain jaded philosophy on life which they didn't understand. I was exclusively and dangerously enraptured in the police subculture. I volunteered with the Explorers for nearly 6 years until the program folded.
At age 19, I graduated from Wake Technical University with an associates degree in Criminal Justice Technologies. Three months later I was appointed the senior pastor of the Selma Emmanuel Holiness Church. During this time I mainly handled church repair projects and spent a couple of years farming with my grandfather and landscaping. It was a good, balancing refrain which sort of re-sensitized me to the less cynical side of life.
At age 22 I became a sworn law enforcement officer. Later that year I became a volunteer firefighter, responding to medical calls as well. People's entire material lives wasted in a matter of minutes. Homes which stood for a hundred years or more can lay in ashes by one spark. A single accident with a gun can bring a lifetime of guilt and depression. Hundreds of thousands of dollars damaged and a few cold bodies left behind because a 13 year old decided to see what it was like to drive real fast. A rugged, battle hardened Marine, and now a state trooper, cries like a child as he recalls the time he had to notify an old man on Christmas Eve that his only remaining family - wife, daughter, and grand daughter - were suddenly killed by an out of control semi rig. People usually force these thoughts out of their minds with comforts such as "being in the wrong place at the wrong time," or blaming society for not being safe enough. By and large, the world is a safer place now than it ever has been. Things just happen.
But then one begins to realize another perspective of the events. With all of this comes a hardly obtained mindset of disposability. Being willing to abandon everything for a cause or even for survival is a necessary and foreign mindset in our post-modern society. Homes are rebuilt. Lives continue. People learn to cope.
Given the foundation which I first divulged, the things I have witnessed in human services professions, coupled with a rational understanding of human history and God's plan for mankind have taught me a few valuable and sobering lessons which, oxymoronic-ally, are comforts once fully embraced.
Stuff is cheap
No matter how much money or time you have invested in a project in the material world, it is all replaceable. And even if one loses all and is never restored to his former glory, it does not matter in the grand scheme of eternity.
Life is not infinitely valuable
Some things are worth more than life. Examples could include honor, respect, justice, obedience, creed, and principle. Sometimes thousands die and it truly is worth it in the end.
Sometimes you just die
An infant whose parents failed to properly restrain him in his car seat; a young adult who was driving the speed limit when a drunk ran a stop sign; an elderly lady who was struck and killed by a teen catching up on texts: you can be doing everything right and careful and still die. What's more, not every tragedy is preventable. Some of the most senseless
arguments I hear after mass killings are why someone should be punished for not preventing them. Sometimes things just happen.
It's not God's fault, but even if it was it wouldn't matter.
God created a perfect world, but man sinned. That is why things are the way they are. Period. But what many people refuse to realize is that God is sovereign. As such he is not subject to your human reasoning. Everything was created and is owned by him. He may do with it as he chooses.
As an exercise, begin throughout this week to imagine losses and tragic events. Try to accept your own impermanence, as well as mentally prepare to accept losses. This method can be used to overcome many anxieties, and to mitigate grief in advance. Furthermore, it will help you place a greater value on the good things in life which you have, and teach you to enjoy and appreciate them while they are here.
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. Psalm 139:8
If you would like to receive The Platform e-newsletter each week, email Blue Shepard at firstname.lastname@example.org