(Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken)
Do you know what an intersection is? It is a point at which two or more things intersect, especially roads…and in our case within The Salvation Army and every other Church, Movement, Organization – these “roads” of intersection represent one’s motivation for “signing up” or joining, our reason for remaining and our reason that we don the red trim and we call ourselves “Officers”.
I’m a picture kinda guy.
By that I mean I see things within snapshots or photographs. How things appear or ought to appear. If I can boil down the essence of something it can help me to process what I have seen and allow me to understand it. Are you a picture person too?
A colleague of mine posed this question to me and I thought I would ponder it, write it down, scatter its ashes around and piece the puzzle back together again…here goes.
The Question: “What are the intersections between being “employed” and being “deployed” in the context of a SA Officer?”
As I considered this question over and over again, it is assumed that there are multiple entry and exit points to such an intersection (e.g. “intersections”). Automatically I envisioned this picture of a four way intersection out in the country, a sapphire blue canvas sky, where all four roads diverged and then carried on their way out into the dusty, sunlit horizon.
I have written on a similar topic before – “Why I Quit Being Employed By The Salvation Army” but that was personal…to me this posed question is like a scientific dissection of sorts. We must take it slowly and layer by layer…again I’m thinking in pictures here.
To help us all understand and gain a clearer picture of this intersection of employment and deployment, we must take it picture by picture…and hopefully we can then decide what these intersections look like to us and where they lead.
The Intersection of Employment:
Within this pathway comes little by way of true passion for The Salvation Army and the mission. I will already assume someone will erroneously take this to mean that all “employment/employees” are the target of this dissection, but it is indeed not the case. I am speaking of primarily Officership of The Salvation Army and possibly potential future Officers.
Some would treat this “calling” as a place to gather a paycheck, a safe place to reside and bide their time until retirement or something better comes along. Others within the “employment” path would hinge all of their identities on their rank, their position, the power. Some who either consciously or subconsciously view their position within the Army as “employment” and attempt, at all cost, to climb the corporate/organizational ladder. When this ideological view point (either by intention, circumstance, or unintentional means) occurs the passion for one’s calling and the intention of fulfilling the Army’s mission and that of Christ’s great commission goes out the window. God forbid we find ourselves there, but if we do I pray that it becomes the crossroads to either realignment and course adjustment or an exit from the mission of The Army.
Do not misunderstand me here, I do not mean to say this is an easy fix nor can it be summed up simply with nice pretty pictures of a country intersection. It is certainly a complicated matter to discuss. Much should be done within one’s own personal time of soul-searching and a diligent prayer life. But…if we are simply employed by This army of salvation and we no longer possess the desire to serve the lost in Christ’s name, and our heart no longer belongs to its mission, then perhaps it is time to consider moving on. I do not say this lightly, but we cannot afford to become so top heavy with administrators while the well runs dry with salvation servants humbly willing to serve anywhere regardless of power, position and pride. (This is a gut punch to even my own ego and pride)
We ought to recognize that though we are an organization we are also a movement and a church (Cue the dissenters out there, sorry a continued discussion for another time). That being said, though structurally we possess the infrastructure of every other “top-down” organizational blueprint, we are an Army of Salvation hell bent of pull lost souls from the fires of hell and standing up for those without a voice. Therefore, all of Salvation Soldiers are called to serve and all are called to be holy and to possess within them a heart for Christ which extends outwardly towards others.
The Intersection of Deployment:
This is the seldom traveled route. I have long stood upon such a crossroads. I cannot conceal this or hide the fact that there have been times that I have taken a detour, driven for a mile or two on the route of employment…looked guiltily in the rear view mirror as dust plumes engulfed and temporarily obscured my view of the path that I knew I should have traveled a little while longer upon…
It should be noted that it is far easier to travel the employment route. It is far easier to sleep at night having put to bed the mission of the army, when lights have been extinguished in the tidy offices, and after the corp’s doors are locked and the parking lot has emptied. When we have compartmentalized what we do from 9 to 5 from who we are “off the clock”. This route paints a smoother road to travel on. To become “deployed” often takes us upon the rougher roads, with numerous potholes and disturbing setbacks. We face other people’s pains, heartaches and regrets. We come face to face with failure because we risk much and are willing to “go the extra mile” down this seemingly deserted road.
The path is littered with blown tires and wounded travelers. It resembles battle and war and often takes us to many a dark place where the lost are aimlessly wandering seeking guidance and direction.
Dear Salvation Army, this is the road less traveled because it is not easy, it is not desirable, it is not glamorous…and yet to journey upon it is to imitate how Jesus walked and lived. To be frank, it is saying “to hell with prestige, power, image, perceptions…and to hell with pursuits of selfish gains”, while saying “yes to humility, holiness, selflessness and Christ-like gains.” It is whispering a prayer chorus in our hearts “to be like Jesus this thought possesses me, in spirit and in deed, like Him I’ll be“; while reclaiming, from selfishness, that swampy quick-sand, getting our feet stuck kind of battle ground which is located in our minds and causing a spiritual paralysis and a stubbornness of will.
Questions for us to ask and answer within ourselves:
-Am I traveling upon the road of employment or deployment?
-Am I thriving upon the intersection of power, comfort, complacency?
-Why do I serve within this Army?
-Am I currently traveling upon the right road in my life, in my spiritual walk, in my Officership?
-Is it my life-long mission to be like Jesus and to serve and live for Him?
-How does this effect everything else I am and what I do?
I know there are other callings in life.
I recognize that The Salvation Army isn’t the only path to serve the Lord within.
I also understand that sometimes we will not always see eye to eye with policy and leadership…yet where does that leave us? Where are we going? Why do we do what we do as Officers…and even Soldiers?
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!