My story isn’t always as pretty as I’d like it to be, especially my years before I walked with the Lord.
In 1987 I was a single mother, in the Air Force, and stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida. That summer, when I was not even six months into the motherhood journey, I received orders for a 30-day, temporary duty assignment to a base in Tennessee.
I had recently moved in with a man I had met two months prior. We were in an ambiguous relationship, a relationship where past experiences and wounds caused us to put on protective gear over our everyday outfits. Cumbersome, but safe. We each declared that moving in together was a good financial move, but that we weren’t looking for a serious relationship commitment. Marriage was out of the question. We weren’t looking to date other people, but neither were we willing to commit to anything permanent with one another.
Or so we proclaimed.
Then came my TDY orders to Tennessee. Not only would I be leaving my child behind for an entire month, it would also mean being away from my new boyfriend for nearly as long as I had been with him.
With no opportunity to turn down the TDY, I packed my solid green military fatigues, some civilian jeans, shorts, and tops, books, and my frayed toothbrush, making yet another mental note to purchase a new one. A bag of sadness and a box of unlabeled fear managed to find their way on top of my pajamas before I zipped up the worn duffel bag.
Days after arriving at the military base in Tennessee, the CH-53 helicopters from Hurlburt Field were “grounded.” That meant the pilots were unable to participate in the military exercise we were in Tennessee for because crucial aircraft parts were on backorder. There wasn’t a lot we enlisted folks could do except wait for the parts to arrive. During the humid days we sat around the flightline or our hotel rooms and played Blackjack and Cribbage, mindlessly ate junk food, wiped sweat from our faces, and wished the hours would pass a little faster.
In the evenings, the boredom continued and I joined many of the other enlisted men and women at the local bars. I had cut back on drinking since becoming a mother, but without my son to care for at night, I easily slipped back into my old habits. On one of those nights, the burning power of tequila set my throat afire and turned my common sense into a pile of ashes. I spent the evening chatting and laughing with one of the single guys from Hurlburt Field. After a couple of shots and a beer or two, he invited me out on the dance floor. Before long the dances included slow ones that, had I been sober, I would have avoided.
My boyfriend was well loved and respected by the Hurlburt folks he worked with, and some of his closest buddies were also on the Tennessee deployment. These friends were watching out for him. They knew he had been hurt in the past and were not about to let that happen again.
His friends wanted to protect him, but they didn’t know that even in drunkenness, even in my emotionally stunted state during that season in my life, I believed in transparency and honesty. So when two of them telephoned my guy – their friend – and told him about the dancing and the flirting that had transpired, he already knew. I had told him.
“But you know, since you and me aren’t really looking for anything serious in our relationship, I didn’t think it was a big deal,” I had lamely ended my confession.
What happened next changed the course of my entire life.
My boyfriend very quickly took a military leave of absence and drove nonstop from Florida to Tennessee.
He pursued me.
He let me know by his actions that I was worth chasing after, that he wasn’t about to let some other guy in a uniform win me over. By getting in that old Ford truck of his and hightailing it to Tennessee, he shouted that I was important to him. That I had value to him. That he actually loved me.
We spent the next week together, and during my off duty hours we swam in a cold Tennessee River, played miniature golf, hiked, and picnicked. When his leave time was up and he headed back to Florida, I had a totally different mindset.
Two months later I married that man.
Not long after we married, we moved into military housing, right next door to a couple that lived out the love and grace of Jesus. Scott and I surrendered our own lives to the Savior and, empowered by God’s Spirit, chose to follow hard after Him.
It hasn’t always been an easy journey but it has been an amazing one and I would marry him again. Today, in 2022, I lovingly call the man who chased after me The Silver Fox. Later this year we will celebrate 35 years of marriage.
Over the last six months, I have been working on a book to be published later in 2022, and in the process there have been some painful self reflections. Reflections that clobbered me over the head with the realization that I have never pursued much in life. I never chased hard after anything except an illusion of control, while sitting back and letting life happen.
God has certainly blessed me abundantly in that sitting back part of life. But now, in this season, I am being called to recognize what is valuable and important – the things that God created me for – and chase hard after them. When I think of pursuing, I’m brought back to the day when I saw a familiar Ford truck pull up in front of a hotel in Tennessee.
I am being called to that kind of pursuit. I’m not in control of the outcomes, but I can and I will climb up into my old truck, turn the key, and head in a very specific direction, for a very specific purpose.
(And y’all know the radio will be on, and I’ll be singing at the top of my lungs as I start the journey.)
Friends, this is the first time that I prayed for a word for the year and immediately received one, along with a Scripture. Before the December page had even been torn off my calendar. I mean, that was a God thing for sure.
The word is pursue.
Pursue. Follow after, chase hard in order to catch, seek, follow up. The Scripture that came was 2 Timothy 2:22 “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
I wasn’t sure what to think about the Scripture. I wasn’t sure what I was being called to flee from, and I wasn’t sure what I was being called to pursue. So I continued in prayer.
Flee youthful lusts. When we think of the word lust, we generally think of it in a sexual term. But this term “youthful lusts” comes from the greek words neōterikos, and epithymia and refers to things a young person lusts after or craves , deep desires or longings that are sometimes forbidden – but not always. Young people are often caught up in chasing after what they think will bring pleasure such as fame, riches, a sculpted body, or other myths that the world tells us will bring happiness. A relationship. A particular career. The newest fashion, fad, or gadget.
I’ve never personally craved fame or fortune, and I long ago accepted my pygmy sized body that will never reach model status. So I asked God, what youthful desires are you calling me to flee?
And that’s when an AHA moment hit me. Another painful clobbering over my head.
I thrive on simplicity. (I was going to write quiet simplicity there, but I suspect my family might call me out on the quiet part.)
I haven’t pursued things because I love my simple life. I’m abundantly blessed and happy. I’m content and at peace. Why would I want to change that? What if I pursue something and it actually turns out successfully? What if I have to deal with something beyond simplicity? I see so many people who have given their all to achieving something in life only to find themselves sad, depressed, or disillusioned when they are successful.
I, on the other hand, have experienced a deep and abiding joy rooted in my simple life with Christ. A delight in the simplicity.
But maybe it’s time to step into the uncomfortable.
Perhaps the youthful lusts I am being asked to flee are my cravings of safety and security in the simple, comfortable life I lead.
Back in 1987, Scott had to shed his protective “I’m not really looking for a serious relationship” garment before getting into that old ’76 Ford truck to chase after his pygmy-sized girlfriend. He had to leave Florida to reach Tennessee.
I reckon I, too, have to let go in order to chase after. I can’t pursue if I remain leashed to the safe, familiar.
So having settled on what to flee, I began to seek what I should pursue. Again I went to God in prayer.
“‘Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace’ the verse says. Lord, I already know these are things to pursue, I know I need to chase after the things you call important. But could you give me some specifics?”
I spent some time listening. God answered.
He gave me four specific areas to pursue. But more importantly, He gave me the why. I’m not to go after these things for the sake of the chase – I must pursue them all in a way that shines light on the abundant life that is found in Christ Jesus. He gave me the how. With love, faith, and peace.
The world seems to be turned upside down over these last few years, and drug addictions, suicides, depression, crime, and hopelessness are rising at alarming rates. I want to be intentional in 2022 to turn on my own little flashlight and illuminate where my peace comes from. I want to connect others to the abundant hope and joy that is in Christ.
Pursue in 2022. It has a nice ring to it.
I’m both a little scared and a whole lot excited about this new season. And I give thanks for the One who came to earth to pursue the hearts of mankind because of His great love for us. May I pursue as lovingly and relentlessly as He does.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6 NLT
Questions to ponder (and share if you are comfortable with that!)
Do you have a word for 2022?
Is God calling you to let go of something in order to pursue something else? What holds you back from pursuing what you know you are being called to? Are you more afraid of failure or success?
(On a personal note…writing is hard for me. People assume that I enjoy it, that it is easy for me. Truth is, I mostly write out of reluctant obedience not enjoyment – and it’s never easy for me to sit still and focus long enough to write something that isn’t jibberish. I always appreciate hearing from my readers letting me know I made a little bit of sense.)
With gratitude and blessings for abundance,
Marie with a 🙂
You made more than a little bit of sense! Thank you for sharing your pursuit for the coming year. It is a worthy one!
Thank you for taking time to comment <3