“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18,19).
For many, the transition from civilian to military life took some getting used to, but not unwelcome. After all, America now has all-volunteer Armed Forces. Recruits sign up for this.
Leaving the military for civilian life is also welcomed by many—but not by everyone. Some who have made a career out of serving their country in uniform find the transition to civilian life quite troubling. While not without problems, military life had offered meaning and stability that civilian life seemed to lack. More than one has faced the mandatory age for retirement with reluctance.
In fact, more than one combat veteran has admitted that he wished he had died on the battlefield instead of being ushered out with ribbons into a life he did not want. Spiritual warriors have had the same experience. The Apostle Peter was one of them.
If one were to describe Peter, the words courageous and quick to act would be used. Sometimes that got him into trouble. We think of him pulling out his sword to attack those who came to make an arrest in Gethsemane. Jesus had to tell him to stand down.
Peter became a leader of Christians. The Book of Acts reports his bravery when standing up to enemies of the Christian Church. He announced the good news of salvation with boldness.
He was a champion of the Faith. His example inspired many, and his ministry served many. But the time would come that his life of service would end.
He always knew that. But Jesus warned him he would not like it. He would not want it. He would get old. Someone else would dress him. Someone else would lead him around. Others would control his life. Jesus was describing Peter’s final arrest and martyrdom. That could be a most-troubling transition.
Change is hard if the change brings new problems. Change is harder if it signals the end of a way of life we treasured. The hymnist lamented, “Change and decay in all around I see…” Sometimes, we might sing those words with conviction.
The Bible warns that world conditions will deteriorate. Common sense tells us that we will deteriorate, too. No one can expect to escape the frailty of old age. Except. Except those who get an early discharge. Those who die young. For the Christian, that would not be a tragedy. Loved ones would grieve, but the assertion of the Apostle Paul stands: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
He wrote those words from a prison cell in danger of being executed. Death would indeed be a transition for him—but not a troubling one. Jesus sought to take the trouble out of Peter’s transition by telling him in advance what would happen. This transition was part of God’s good and gracious plan.
So it is with us. So it will always be when the Lord allows changes to take place in our life. Every change.
We will never be dismissed to fend for ourselves. He will stay with us. He will be our guide, our POC, to lead us to where we should be—to where we want to be.
Always with him.
We join in the prayer of the hymnist:
“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not,
Abide with me.”
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain, and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, MN
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military