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February Chaplain's Reflections

Portrait of U.S Air Force Maj. Christina Pittman, the 169th Fighter Wing chaplain, along with Avalon, the therapy assistance dog for ministry at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, March 19, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Portrait of U.S Air Force Maj. Christina Pittman, the 169th Fighter Wing chaplain, along with Avalon, the therapy assistance dog for ministry at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, March 19, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

As we walk life’s journey on the road to discover our purpose and fulfillment, often times we do not see the struggles we face as building blocks that strengthen our spiritual resiliency. There are many options in this world to enlighten and focus our spiritual guidance and practice.  In various religions, there are components empowering us to strive to be better people by treating others better. The reciprocal effects of choosing wholeness in our mind, body and spirits inadvertently spills over to the lives of others in our path. When our spiritual faith and values are engaged, our lives have purpose and can be instruments to bless others. 

I am currently teaching my youngest child, Wyatt, how to drive. Through the years he observed his older two siblings getting their first driving lessons. No matter how many times he was in the vehicle watching and listening to their instruction, he has made similar mistakes now that he is in the driver’s seat. Behind the wheel of a car is the only way to truly learn the method of maneuvering a two-ton vehicle. This is the same for learning to ride a bike, flying a jet or firing a weapon. Simulation is an important tool in mastery, however, getting into the mechanics of the skill through hands-on experience is where true mastery is achieved. The concept is true for building the spiritual strength in our lives. Resiliency involves prior practice which helps us bounce back in tough times. When faith and values are applied, the skills to maneuvering life’s struggles are ascertained. 

What happens though when Wyatt is learning to drive and he gets off course and looks out his side window or glances at the navigation screen? He begins to drift the direction he is looking. At this point, everyone in the car goes with him and are in danger of injury as he drifts off the road. The same is true in life for each of us whether we like it or not, our actions are ripple effects into the lives of others. This effect includes good and bad choices. Sometimes when we focus on the results of our choices or circumstances, we are left with a less than positive feeling about ourselves and our life’s purpose.

This is where I would like to interject a significant life principal to spiritual resiliency.  When we apply our faith values in tough times others in our paths reap the benefits. This is true not just because we might be easier to get along with, however the benefit comes be means of empowering and blessing. For example, in the philosophy of Buddhism, karma is the ripple effects of good and bad choices. When good choices are focused on then the benefits to fellow human beings is increased. Such is the thought referencing karma; it will come back to a person only after it has gone out from a person. Good karma will return in the form of good from another or from nature. There is truth to this in the phrase commonly called the “Golden Rule,” “Treat others how we would like to be treated.” This phrase and good karma are not a guarantee however, an overall life principal that goodness reaps good for others as it does for the individual choosing to make good choices.

This is true through several major religions.  Let me explain as I point out some faith practices in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Judaism practices taking part in acts of love and kindness towards others to include Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). This belief is taken seriously to imply commandment or a “mitzvah.” Taking care of the poor and needy to show love and brotherhood is a significant practice of the faith. Through this act, a blessing extends to others and the community is a better place for all.

In Christianity, there is a call to be good even if a person is treated badly. In the Bible, 1 Peter 3:9 (New Living Translation) it says, “Do not repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing.” In this way a believer can focus on the other person and become their brother’s keeper. In this process, the belief is to share in each other’s burdens while setting personal offenses aside. Taking care of the least of these like widows and orphans is a tenant of the faith as well as doing good to those who do not do good to a Christian believer.

Finally, in the Islamic faith a leading principal is found in what our society calls the “Golden Rule.” On the premise of who is a believer, it states “None of you believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” (An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 13) Doing to others how a person wishes to live themselves is a significant blessing to another person. In Islam, it actually points to not showing true belief until one shows and practices this concept. As a human being, I am intrigued with the over-arching link these major faiths or value practices connect us together. Below are other tenants of faith that are linked with the “Golden Rule:”

Buddhism: “Do not hurt others in ways you yourself would find hurtful” (Udanavarga     5:18)

Judaism: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.  That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

Christianity: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:21)

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do nothing to others that would cause you pain if done to you.” (Mahabharata 5:117)

Sharing in each other’s burdens, we can overcome despair, abandonment and crushed feelings. When the spiritual light shows through our brokenness, others can see and be encouraged, they too are a work of art for the light to shine through in times of growth and transition. Our purpose is rooted in our being and driven by our faith and values. We can all be encouraged to let faith have the last word in our lives.

When Wyatt makes good driving decisions, everyone in the car reaps the benefits. As we navigate life’s journey, know that in our weakness, applying our faith can bring about a blessing for ourselves and others. That is when our faith uses us despite ourselves. Our failures do not define us nor prevent us from doing extraordinary acts though we are ordinary people.

Remember the “Golden Rule” as we do all things through the strength of our faith in practice; even in how we treat ourselves and others. Who knows what good might happen next through our lives yielded to living out our faith and values.

If you desire more information or support on spiritual strength or religious accommodation, please call the SCANG Chaplain Corps office at 803-647-8265 or email us at usaf.sc.169-fw.list.fal-hc-ang-chaplains@mail.mil

Resiliency in Relationship Opportunities: Strong Bonds sign-ups for couples will end this February drill weekend.  Other events will occur this spring and summer.  Stand by for more information on the Family and Individual’s Strong Bonds Events.  Also, COMPASS, a joint SCNG event for renewal and support due to a crisis or personal struggle is the weekend of February 28- March 1 at Hickory Knob state park; it is open for registration. Please see flyers in the month’s SCANG website updates at the following link:  https://169fw.usaf.afpims.mil/About-Us/Bulletin-Board/.  New opportunities a head this this year!