Comprehensive Airman Fitness: We really need each other

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jim Glass
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing
In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Ginsberg noted that we live in an era of "evolving requirements, diverse mission sets, and constrained budgets" at a time when our Air Force is trying to "seek balance between winning today's fight and countering the threats of tomorrow." Part of his answer to address that challenge includes a term that has become very familiar to those of us on active duty--"resilience."

The idea of resilience, though, is not a new concept. It was Solomon, the son of David and King of Israel, who gave us a vivid example of resilience some 3,000 years ago. In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, chapter four, Solomon reminds us that "A cord of three strands is not easily broken."

With this image of three strands in mind, let me suggest that you need three people in your lives to provide that caring connection that we hear about in Comprehensive Airman Fitness. To live out this connection, you need three people in your life: You need a Paul, you need a Barnabas, and you need a Timothy.

First of all, you need a Paul--you need an older person who is willing to help you build your life. Someone who, no matter how well or how poorly you succeed in life, wants to see you live as a winner for the rest of your life. This person is not necessarily someone who's smarter or more gifted than you are, and certainly not someone who is perfect. You need somebody who's seen life at its best and its worst--somebody who's willing to talk openly and honestly about both success and failure in life and in their journey of faith.

George Caywood was president of the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles from 1974 to 1991. When George was growing up, he came home from school to find that his father had given up life's race. He was now a 15-year-old, burdened with tremendous responsibility and a lot of regrets.

Bob Biehl, founder of Mentoring Today, met George for lunch one day. Bob asked him, "George, when you were 15, what difference would it have made if one of the men in your church had come up to you, put his arm around you and said, 'You know, George, there is no way on the face of the earth that I can even begin to understand what you are feeling right now, but I want you to know that I believe in you, George. You're going to make it. I'm going to pray for you for the rest of my life. Whatever you choose to become in life, I want to be one of your life-long friends.'" As tears ran down his cheeks, George said, "It would have made all the difference in the world!"

So let me ask you, what difference would it have made in your life if someone came up to you and offered to be your mentor? Young people today are desperate for mentors--people they can turn to with life's tough questions. The world is becoming too fast a place to live in the kind of community that once was, and too many of us, too many of the young Airmen who live and work here at Fairchild, have grown up without the strong and abiding influence of a caring community. Even if you had strong parenting, you still need that connection with someone where you are to ask those tough questions of life and get a different perspective. You need a Paul in your life. Who is it?

Second, you need a Barnabas. It was Barnabas who introduced Paul, the former persecutor of Christians, to the disciples in Jerusalem, and God used Paul mightily there. From that point through most of the book of Acts, almost every time you hear Paul's name it's with Barnabas--Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, in Paphos, in Lystra--always "Paul and Barnabas." In spite of all that had gone on in Paul's life before his conversion, Barnabas was willing to trust him and vouch for him, but he also stood up to him when he needed to.

You need a Barnabas in your life--a soul mate--somebody who loves you but is not overly impressed by you. Somebody who is not taken in by your charm and popularity; somebody who will hold you accountable. Somebody who's willing to say, "Hey, you're neglecting your wife or your husband or your family!" Somebody who can reveal your weaknesses without the rest of the world knowing.
In his book on resilience, Dr. Robert Wicks says each of us needs four types of people in our lives, and your Barnabas can provide one or more of these. The first he calls the prophet, someone who lives an honest and courageous life guided by truth and compassion. Prophets point. They point to the fact that it doesn't matter whether pleasure or pain is involved, the only thing that matters is that we seek to see and live 'the truth' because only it will set us free.

You also need a cheerleader. To balance the prophetic voices we also need unabashed, enthusiastic, unconditional acceptance. Burnout is always around the corner when we don't have people who are ready to encourage us, see our gifts clearly, and be there for us when our involvement with people, their sometimes unrealistic demands, and our own crazy expectations for ourselves threaten to pull us down. You need a Barnabas to be a cheerleader in your life.

You also need a "harasser." Harassers help us laugh at ourselves to avoid the emotional burnout that results from having the unrealistic expectations that people will always follow our guidance or appreciate what we do for them. This type of friend helps us regain and maintain perspective. You need someone to help you keep things in perspective.

While the prophet holds us accountable, the cheerleader encourages us, and the harasser helps us maintain perspective, the guide challenges us to consider those things that make us act, think, or feel a certain way so we can understand what makes us anxious, fearful, unfaithful or hopeless. When we make a bad decision or we consider making a bad decision, the guide is there to ask, "Is this who you really are? Is this who you really want to be? How will this decision affect those around you?" and they listen carefully to the answer.

We all need someone like that in our lives. You need a Barnabas. Who is your Barnabas?

A Paul to learn from, a Barnabas to keep you accountable, and, third, a Timothy to invest your life in, a younger person whose life you are developing. For a model, read through 1st and 2nd Timothy where you'll find Paul, the great mentor, guiding Timothy as he built his own spiritual house.

Young people need someone who can affirm and encourage, teach, pray for, listen to, correct and guide them--someone who will love them unconditionally. You need a Timothy to invest your life in, to share your life experiences with, because every Timothy needs a Paul.

You don't have to be 90- years-old to begin investing your life in a Timothy because there's no age qualification. You don't have to have all the answers; you just have to be willing to journey with them as you seek the answers together.

We all progress through monumental challenges in life--adolescence, high school graduation, marriage, first job, first job loss, birth of a child, death of a family member or our children passing through those same stages of life. What would have happened if you had a Paul to call at that critical moment when you were thinking about walking out on your wife or your husband, or when your first child was born, or when you had just had it up to here with a job, a deployment or an impossible boss, or when you won wing NCO of the year, or when ... good or bad, you fill in the blank. How would your life have been different? You can make that difference in someone else's life if you'll just be a Paul to someone. They need you; we all need each other.

Howard Hendricks tells it like this: "There is no substitute for knowing and being known by another human being. There is no other way to experience what deep down we really want to be as people--to be heard, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be valued. God has put into us the longing to be significant, to feel that our life counts." We really do need each other.

When you invest someone else's life, when you allow yourself to be accountable to someone else, they succeed and you succeed. Perhaps the most important question you might ask yourself is this: "Since we really do need each other, what am I doing today that will help others experience the fullness of life God desires for all of us?"