Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Crane

One of the prerequisites of an expedited retrograde of allied forces at the end of the Gulf War was the emplacement of a United Nations force in Iraq and Kuwait. In 1991, I found myself the senior Marine Officer in the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM). The duty consisted of about a week in the DMZ followed by one or two days of rest in Kuwait City. The destruction of Kuwait City during the war was significant, but not so remarkable as the speed and visibility of the post war construction and restoration.

I was driving to Kuwait City from the DMZ with a vehicle full of officers from other contingents. After traveling a few miles, I asked the Indian officer seated in the front passenger position where his contingent apartment was. He said it was near the big crane. I replied that must be Rumaithiya. The Russian in the back seat said that he thought it was near Salmiya, and in turn the Polish officer indicated that it was between the Fourth and Fifth Ring Roads. The areas we had described were all in the same locale; however, the Indian officer repeated his request to just go to the big crane. The atmosphere in the vehicle tensed, as it was apparent that our offerings made this officer uncomfortable. We drove for another fifteen minutes in total silence until the Indian officer realized the temporary nature of his landmark and blurted out, “I hope they didn’t move that crane!

The relief in the vehicle was evidenced by the infectious laughter for the rest of the ride. I delivered everyone to their desired destination on that day but have kept the lesson of that short journey with me ever since. Our fast paced lives make it easy to rationalize seeking landmarks in this world. Landmarks provide the terminal guidance we need to close in on our objective, but they can also trap us into conforming to the transitory demands of this world.

As a Marine, I often found myself issuing and receiving orders that required the use of map, compass, and towards the end of my career--a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. Plans and orders are great things, but quickly lose their permanence when you encounter the obstacle on the ground that wasn't depicted on the map or when bullets are impacting near you. The Marine that understood and had internalized the intent of an order usually found a way to accomplish his mission in the midst of whatever chaos the day provided him

Are you focused on a temporary landmark as you begin each day's journey?

Are you insisting on executing a plan that you have laid out for your life?

Have you invested your future in temporal guides?

Don't place your trust in the landmarks of this world. Find your guidance where David did-- in the rock and the fortress that is God.

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.

Psalms 31:1-6

Once you have asked God to lead and guide you, approach your day with strength and a renewed heart.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Psalms 31

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