The Colonel

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Some of us are living in a world where the Flow is active and dynamic. Projects are taking off, missions are becoming clear, opportunities are knocking.

Some others of us are living in grittier worlds just now.
Mourning losses…
Reeling from unexpected changes…
Fighting depression and anxiety…

And some of us are living in a world where a phone call at 4 a.m. speaks broken phrases into our ear. A familiar voice, in bits and pieces, says that the voice’s friend and coworker was found shot in the head. Not on the battlefield. In. His. CHU. On. The. BASE.

Did I say some of us?
Oh. I guess I meant me.

I lay in bed for three hours after the call, struck dumb as stone. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t even extend my hand to the windowsill near my head to grasp my just-like-Mother-Teresa’s-rosary made with Job’s tears. I just lay there, replaying the call over and over in my mind.

The Marines that worked with and for The Colonel will tell you many remarkable things about him. To me, in my small little world thousands of miles across the globe, he lived and moved and had his being as The-Man-Who-Is-Kind-To-Husband. (This is no small matter. Husband is sometimes…uhhhmmm…difficult.) 

Husband didn’t tell me much when he would call from his temporary home on the Marine base in Ramadi, but he told me enough. Enough for me to know that Colonel Mike was a good man. It comforted me, knowing Colonel Mike was there, working alongside Husband, calling Husband his wingman.

I rose at 7 and dressed to run the greenbelt trails. I didn’t want to go. But I was afraid not to. Afraid of my own thoughts, if I just kept replaying the phone call in my mind, afraid of the pictures the call had painted. For in his grief, Husband had mentioned…details.

And the details included the unthinkable – 

Colonel Mike was alive, barely, when they found him.
He was there.
But also, he was not.

“It’s bad,” Husband said.

Ohmygod

I enter the greenbelt, and the heaviness I felt in bed intensifies now, pressing in on me, pressing, pressing, pressing. I can barely move. I reach inside myself for something to pray with. There is only a vast emptiness, a void — and I don’t mean the good kind of void the new-agers talk about. I hesitate.

The hesitation is just enough for the thoughts to come tumbling back in, and even as I run, I begin to cry. I cannot bear the thought of that good man lying in that dismal CHU in the darkness…in the aloneness.

I begin to pray for Colonel Mike, in earnest. I hardly know what to pray; I only know that something begins to build and build in me until I am lost in it. I raise my eyes to the heavens, and as my impassioned pleading for Colonel Mike’s life reaches its climax…

Just then
Exactly then

A pain tears through my ankle as my foot lands just the wrong way on a sweetgum ball and I. Go. Down.

I didn’t see the hard, thorny little ball, because my eyes were turned to the heavens FROM WHENCE MY HELP WAS SUPPOSED TO COME.

Now, over the course of my uncoordinated life, I’ve sprained things, strained things, dislocated things and broken things, and nothing – I repeat nothing – (except maybe the broken hip) ever hurt like this.

Yet, even as I tumbled down, even as the pain was screaming through my ankle and seemingly in my ears, I maintained contact with my Creator. As I choked and gasped and sputtered, I maintained the presence of mind to cry, with every fiber of my being…

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

ARE! YOU! KIDDING! ME!?!

Like an angel couldn’t guard my foot in that moment?
Swept the sweetgum ball out of my path?
The Master of the Universe couldn’t have managed an inch one way or the other when it fell?

I think of Colonel Mike alone in the darkness. 
I think of normally-quite-selfish me, losing my self-centered self in desperate attempts to pray for the man.

WHAT KIND OF GOD ARE YOU, ANYWAY?

It’s impulsive and furious the first time. But the second time is more dangerous. Because the second time it’s cold as ice. 

What kind of God are you, anyway?

I force myself back up on my good foot, resting the toe of the throbbing ankle on the sidewalk. It’s not enough to think it. I have to scream it. I tip my head back to look at the treetops, and I shout it OUT LOUD :

“WHAT KIND OF GOD ARE YOU, ANYWAY?”

There is no answer.

No answer for me.
No answer for Colonel Mike.

I stand there, watching the sun peek through the leaves as the trees sway back and forth in the breeze. I take in the utter, profound, immutable, LACK OF RESPONSE. I take it in, and take it in, and take it in.

I give God many chances.
God does not speak.

For the second time that day, something begins to build in me. 

“Do you think I’ll quit?” I shout to the swaying treetops.
“DO YOU THINK I’LL EVER QUIT?”

“Well, I WON’T. I will NEVER stop coming to You with these things. I will NEVER stop asking You to make these things right. I will NEVER EVER stop!!!”

How do I explain what I felt next? How do you describe a thing that emanates from the World Without Words? Well, you don’t describe it very well, I suppose. But you try.

God spoke to me, my friends.
Do you want to know what God said to me?

He said…
He said…

Do you think I’ll ever quit?
Well, I won’t. 
I will never stop coming to you with these things. I will never stop asking you to make these things right. I will never, ever stop.

What came over me in that moment is a thing I call “The Shift,” where in the blink of an eye, in the space of an Instant, you’ve entered the Union, the Communion, the Oneness…call it what you will…It’s you and it’s God and it’s everything and you’re all kind of blended together.

Only this time it isn’t just wide-open and expansive like it is when you’ve been meditating or you are quiet and still in nature…although all of that is there too…this time there is intensity and focus and power and energy.

And somehow I know that God is speaking about more than The Colonel. 

Bad stuff happens in this world, my friends. 
Really. Bad. Stuff. 

In lonely CHUs.
In our homes.
On our battlefields.
On the streets of our cities.

And God is never gonna stop asking us to make things right.

Colonel Mike lived long enough to be flown to the States, long enough for heartbroken family members to say goodbye to the unconscious man.

And then he was gone.

Why tell you this story?
I tell it because of the Great What If that has remained with me since that day.

What if, my friends?

What if God is waiting for the day that enough of us collectively cry,“We’re NEVER going to stop coming to You with these things. We will never stop asking you to make these things right.”

So that He can say 

Good! Finally! You’re awake.
Now. We’ve got work to do.

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My Friends, Colonel Mike’s wife never gave up. She doesn’t think Colonel Mike killed himself. She thinks someone else did that. Find her not-giving-up efforts at:

https://www.facebook.com/ColonelMichaelStahlman/

 

Kelly Hanes