Well, I finally had a chance to appear before the Navy's CARE (Chaplain Appointment Retention and Advisory) board last Thursday out in Washington DC. Sat before a panel of 6 senior chaplains and one line officer and answered a series of questions relating to my military service, ministry experience, views on the chaplaincy, etc. One of the last questions I was asked was "If you are not selected by this board, what will you do?" I answered that I would continue to seek appointment as a chaplain - whether in the Army or National Guard - because I feel strongly that the Lord has called me to this ministry. If the military door was irrevocably closed, I would likely pursue a career as a hospital or prison chaplain.
Well, it seems as though that answer is now being put to the test, as my chaplain recruiter called today to inform me that my name was not on the list of those recommended for active duty by the CARE board. Although I've heard no specific reason for their recommendation, my hunch is that it is related to my ministry experience, or lack thereof. You see, the military wants its chaplains to have a minimum of two years of full-time experience - preferably post-graduate - and I have to admit that I barely meet that requirement. Even though I've been an associate pastor at my church for the last two years, it appears that they don't consider that as being "full-time" enough, and would like to see more post-graduate work.
Of course, this is disappointing news for a number of reasons. First, this is what we've been aiming for for the last several years, so getting turned down now means that plans must be shelved and priorities rearranged, not to mention the fact that I must now find some other means of full-time employment. Second, it's frustrating to have come so far in the process only to be told that you're not quite there and that you need more time & experience. Finally, there's a tendency towards self-doubt; a wondering if maybe I've been pursuing this for my own reasons and maybe have misinterpreted God's directions for me in this matter.
On the other hand, we know that God is in control of all things, and that nothing happens that is a surprise to Him. We still trust in the message of Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
So what does this mean for us now? Well, after talking with Tamara we've decided to go ahead and pursue appointment as a National Guard chaplain. Not only will this allow me to stay engaged with the military ministry, but there's a distinct possibility that I can/will be deployed with them in the next year or so, which would go a long way towards meeting the "experience" part of the equation. Hopefully, in another year or so I can reapply for the Navy and go from there, but for now we're just committed to seeing where God can use us best in the meantime.
Still resting in His hands.
Adonai is STILL Semper Fi.