Captain Scotty Smiley prompts reliance on God at January Series
As I sat and listened to Captain Scotty Smiley, I couldn’t help but think about how different our lives were. Smiley opened with a description of a hike on Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in Washington and one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. He went on to discuss his experience at West Point, his deployment overseas, and above all else, life after his eyesight was taken by a suicide bombing.
It’s not much to compare with my cushy, largely stress free life.
But, something connected with me. Smiley’s story seemed strangely similar to my own on a deeper level.
Like Smiley, I also rarely saw my family during my freshman year, knew nobody in the college I was attending, and left a high school sweetheart back home. Like Smiley, I was miserable to start my freshman year, adjusting to a new place, new friends and new responsibilities. Like Smiley, eventually I moved on, got through it and ended up proposing to my high school sweetheart.
But soon after getting married, Smiley was deployed, and would lose his eyesight during a suicide bombing. Nothing like that has happened to me, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying with my fiancée 2,000 miles away in Honduras for five months.
I generally love Interim; it’s a perfect break between an all-too-short winter break and the dreary days of spring semester. But after my best friend and future wife left for the semester, I wasn’t sure what to do. It was completely unfamiliar territory.
But it was nowhere near the unfamiliarity that Scotty Smiley experienced after entering a completely new, dark world without sight. Yet, God used, and still uses, Smiley as a part of his perfect plan. But Smiley had to learn a few key things before that could occur, things that hit me hard.
First, Smiley had to learn about independence. So often we’re told to go out and become independent, and learn how to take care of things on our own. But Smiley iterated how dangerous that was for him throughout his life: from his transitional days at West Point, to his life post-blindness, trying to do things on his own rarely ended positively.
From the days holing up in my dorm room during freshman year, to trying to go through the last few weeks without allowing others in, I can wholeheartedly agree with Smiley’s perspective. God gives us people in our lives to aid us in every kind of struggle. We’re relational creatures, and when we try to handle everything alone, we’re severely limiting our growth.
But the biggest loss is forgetting to rely on the one who created, sustains and loves each and every one of us. Smiley was forced to rely on God, just as I have been. My fiancée is my best friend, and always has been the one I confide in with everything. I don’t have that anymore, and while it’s been difficult, it’s put my perspective back where it should be.
That brings me to the second point that Smiley discussed: that God uses every moment in our lives to prepare us for future experiences. It’s no accident that Smiley had to learn to rely on others and fight through loneliness in his initial years at West Point; it helped prepare him to the extreme adjustment of blindness later in his life. Right now, I’m being prepared for a future marriage, which could crumble if I don’t have the correct perspective — focused on Him. Every single moment, both good and bad, help contribute to where we will be in future years.
The stress doesn’t end. So often we think that we just have to get through the next thing, and then our lives will be great. We just have to get through the next semester. But then there’s a new one. Then there’s a career, where even a job we love we will have stresses. Marriage and parenthood are more stressful than anything most of us college students have ever even imagined experiencing. But the longer we live, the easier it is to handle that stress. God prepares us through those stresses for the future stresses. And when we learn to deal with that, the payoff gets bigger and better — just ask any parent.
I suppose that those points wouldn’t necessarily be comforting to everybody, but they certainly were for me. After all, if Smiley could live through military academy, deployment and blindness to live a fulfilling, wholesome life, then the stresses of a college student blessed with health, family and friends don’t seem quite so bad.