His feet were bleeding from open blisters, and his hands and legs were cramping almost beyond endurance. This young man was reaching the end of a three-day, 65-mile march. He carried 125 pounds of gear, slept no more than four hours a night, and had just enough food for 2 1/2 meals. He had struggled his way through all kinds of obstacles both day and night. Yet, he had one more major challenge: to climb the rugged mountain in front of him.
He forced his mind to ignore the pain and focus on the goal, whispered a prayer to his Lord, and with all his remaining strength, started climbing. His body was pushed to the breaking point, yet still, he climbed. At last, he reached the top and the moment he had been waiting for arrived. He had made it through the crucible. The crucible is the last test a recruit must pass in Marine boot camp. It tests him physically, mentally, and morally. The young recruits learn quickly that they must rely on one another to solve problems and overcome the obstacles they face. No one gets through it alone. Although at times it seems impossible to go on, the anticipation of the reward compels them forward. At the top of the mountain, their drill instructor is waiting for them. He then presents these young recruits with their Marine Corps insignia - eagle, globe, and anchor, shakes their hands, and for the first time, he addresses them as a Marine.
Our grandson experienced this on November 5, 2010. As the drill instructor shook his hand and said, “I’m proud of you, Wilkenson." I'm not sure there are any words to describe what our grandson felt at that moment, but this is one occasion that Marines are moved to tears. The Marine Corps is endeavoring to turn young, inexperienced, undisciplined men and women into Marines. This is no easy task. It involves problems, challenges, pain, suffering, deprivation, and change. It takes determination and commitment on the part of the recruit to stick it out. The goal set before him motivates him to continue. He wants to be a Marine.
As God's children, we can feel like we are in a spiritual 'crucible'. The attacks of our enemy are vicious and brutal, sometimes without warning. The journey seems long, and we encounter financial strain, loss of loved ones, health problems, and broken relationships. Although we know our Lord has promised to be with us and never to give us more than we can bear, like these young recruits, we can feel pushed beyond our limits. Our Lord has a far greater purpose in mind than the Marines. He is conforming us to His image. He is teaching and training us to be strong, wise soldiers who will carry out His mission in this world of darkness. If we are to finish the course set before us, we will need commitment, discipline, and reliance on the power of His Holy Spirit.
Our reward, however, will be much greater than receiving the Marine Insignia. We will receive crowns of glory from the nail-scared hands of our Savior. And although we can imagine the emotion in a young recruit as he hears his drill sergeant say he is proud of him, can we imagine how it will feel to stand face to face with Jesus Christ and hear Him say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant"? (Matthew 25:21, 23)
We have one tremendous advantage over these young recruits. Our Commander is Almighty God, and He is there to strengthen, guide and comfort us. Therefore, let us determine as Paul, to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 3:14). We can do it! "(We) can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13 KJV).