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Seas & Sorrows
Four years before I arrived at Covenant, I was preparing for my first patrol on a 378-foot Coast Guard cutter in the Bering Sea.
All to say, I am not your typical Covenant student. I did four years in the Coast Guard right out of high school as a kid who barely knew how to shave my peach fuzz. The Coast Guard was where I first heard about the PCA,but more importantly it was where the Lord took my heart from the “do-re-mi” of “Jesus Loves Me” to the “jazz” of Jesus loves me. And anyone who has been around Jesus for a while knows the incredible simplicity and vast depth of his love. I entered the Coast Guard as a deeply insecure boy and completed my duty in April 2021 as a man who found great strength in my weakness.
These crucial milestones shaped much of my faith today:
- Going to bootcamp as a seventeen-year-old kid where I was introduced to a world of chaos and brokenness
- Getting assigned to a cutter stationed out of Seattle, Washington
- Coming face to face with the reality of sin and suffering—the darkest season of depression in my life where I became entrenched in pornography, soul-searing doubt about God, and body image issues
- Becoming a damage controlman in Yorktown, Virginia
- Meeting believers who showed me the deep correlation between gospel-culture and gospel-doctrine
- Training in Cape May, New Jersey, to become a firefighter and EMT
- Grappling for the first time with seeing someone die, and having the opportunity to rub shoulders with unbelievers in a way that deeply shaped my faith
- Becoming a member of a Baptist church full of honest, steadfast, and repentant believers who created an environment where I was able to be honest and open
Thinking back, what sticks with me most was the experience of the bilge. The bilge on ship was terribly gross and dirty; yet what made life in the Coast Guard harder than ever was the loneliness. There was a “bilge” in my own life which produced much suffering, both physically and spiritually. I was taxed in a way that caused me to feel desperate and utterly alone in the universe with no true companion to saving grace. But I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I love theology and prayer books, yet nothing has taught me theology or prayer like the bilge. The Lord caused my heart to come alive to Scripture.
I learned that you don’t need to go far to find the bilge of life. It came home with me. I still struggled with a deep sense of feeling lost and lonely. Yet as a believer, I have tasted how death or sin will never have the last word. We live for Christ. And in His resurrection we find resurrection. It is a joy to realize that life is not all about me; it is about Him. It is the most beautiful thing in the world to live in the glorious, magnificent story of the One who has entered the darkest nights of our bilge.
One of the beauties of the Christian life is that the hard times are all redeemable in the hands of the Good Shepherd. I often find myself wrestling with doubt and sin, but I have learned to say sooner: Lord, help! In the last six years, I’ve learned to cultivate an open heart to the Lord, even when that involves doubts. I have been so blessed to be in the Covenant community. I have asked myself many times, who am I to sit one on one with Dr. Wingard for a weekly breakfast? Or sit under Dr. Macallister’s lectures? Who am I to enjoy people who come from so many different backgrounds?
My time in the Coast Guard has shaped my approach to learning at Covenant. And Covenant has helped me connect many of the dots between my head and heart. I wouldn’t trade my time in the Coast Guard for anything. It is where the Lord took me out to sea to remind me that I will never be lost in his grip; I will always have a Good Shepherd leading me and guiding me.