The crisp Chicago wind sliced though my Navy dress blue uniform. My son would graduate from boot camp in just a few days, and I’d be flying back to my duty station in San Diego. So, I hardly noticed the new recruit snap to attention and salute. No one salutes a naval officer a block and a half down the street. But when I looked up again, he was still frozen at attention. I realized he was waiting for me to return the salute.
That young sailor was not the only recruit at Great Lakes Recruit Training Command to go out of his way to salute me. Everywhere I went – the food court, the barracks, the Quick Shop – young men and women nearly fell over themselves to render the military courtesy.
Over the next two days, as I watched groups of novice sailors march to a cadence-call, double-time to meals, or stroll with their families visiting for graduation, I realized how different things are in the “real” navy. I knew from experience some of those salute-happy recruits would – in only a few short months – become careless about the military disciplines they learned in boot camp. Instead of snapping a salute, they will cross the street to avoid rendering the courtesy. Instead of standing to their feet when an officer enters the room, they will turn their head and pretend not to see.
While I lamented how some of those young men and women would lose their zeal for military discipline, my lament turned inward.
As new Christians, many of us fall over ourselves trying to honor God and render the respect He is due. We’re careful to do what pleases Him. We root out sinful habits, devour Scripture, learn how God wants us to live and submit to His authority.
Then “real” life takes its toll, and some grow careless. The awesome becomes mundane, the magnificent trivial. Our sense of holy respect dulls to cavalier regard. Where once the thought of personal sin embarrassed us, now we invent excuses for our behavior. In the beginning, we regularly went to church, prayed, and read the Bible, but now we find other things to do. At one time, we were quick to confess our sins and avoid things that tempt us to sin, but now we rationalize and argue our point.
Kind of reminds me of what Pope John Paul II once said: "Religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness, which . . . is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of the capacity for wonder."
The passion of those young sailors for military discipline reminded me of something I periodically forget: I am not my own. I am bought with a very costly and precious price (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
How then ought I to live? How then ought WE live?