Did you know that the U.S. Army considers spiritual development to be a priority for soldiers?
Recently, the command chaplain at the military post where I work challenged me to familiarize myself with the U.S. Army Field Manual on Holistic Health and Fitness. Among the topics presented, it specifically addresses five domains of fitness: physical, nutritional, mental, spiritual, and sleep.
The domain of spiritual readiness, according to chapter ten, “develops the personal qualities a person needs in times of stress, hardship, and tragedy. These qualities come from religious, philosophical, or human values and form the basis for character, disposition, decision making, and integrity.”
The chaplain asked me to consider how I might use this U.S. Army doctrinal publication in a leader development session in the near future where I might share my personal experiences on how I developed and expressed my own spiritual readiness over the past thirty-five years of active federal service.
My desire is to inform leaders how I integrated my Christian faith at work, how my relationship with God gave me a higher sense of purpose, and how the spiritual domain of holistic health and fitness enabled me to meet the challenges of army life. In doing so, I hope to be able to encourage leaders to develop spiritual readiness in their soldiers.
Integrating My Christian Faith at Work
In the chapter on spiritual readiness, we are informed that, “People enhance their spiritual readiness through reflection and practice of a lifestyle based on the personal qualities they need during times of stress, hardship, and tragedy.” It is clear that faith starts internally and then flows outward.
By the grace of God, I practiced my Christian faith openly, wherever the army sent me. I did this not just by being “religious” on holy days or once a week but by being a believer who walked the walk daily. In doing so:
- I obeyed God’s Word and modeled biblical values, which did not conflict with army values.
- I submitted to my employers, knowing who it was I ultimately worked for.
- I loved my neighbor by meeting his/her needs (i.e., trained soldiers, maintained/repaired weapons and other technical equipment, planned major events, and advised senior leaders.
- I fellowshipped and studied the Bible with other believers in lunchtime Bible studies.
- I shared my faith with those who asked me why I was so different; more often, I have shared my faith without words by doing my work as unto the Lord.
- I supported chaplains throughout my career; I have actively participated in chapel services and values-based education programs such as prayer breakfasts, couples and men’s retreats, and Wednesday night family dinners as well as Bible studies at Fort Leonard Wood.
A Higher Sense of Purpose
In the introduction to this chapter on spiritual readiness, we read, “Spirituality is often described as a sense of connection that gives meaning and purpose to a person’s life.” As I entered the army in 1986, my own sense of God’s presence gave me a reason to serve and has guided me ever since.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I read about his life of selfless service (which is one of the Seven Army Values). He washed the disciples’ feet and willingly went to the cross to offer up himself as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins. As a result, I also learned to selflessly put others before myself as a soldier and DA civilian. I often remind my team, “It’s not about Russ; it’s about us.”
Just over ten years ago, I felt led to pursue a seminary master’s degree program to be a better Sunday school teacher. In an independent study on the theology of work, I noticed a connection between God’s presence and human work which I called Immanuel Labor. I learned that God was working with, in, and through men and women in the military to do his justice work (i.e., defending the innocent, righting wrongs, and bringing peace) in this world among those whom he loves.
Editor’s note: This article was adapted from the author’s personal blog. Republished with permission.