Who could have imagined the events the last week have brought? We were living high on the continuing stream of good news trickling out from Great Lakes, Illinois. Caleb had entered Navy basic training and excelled in every way. We were shocked (pleasantly so) to see him transform from a laid-back, somewhat unmotivated kid to a man with a passion for excellence. He was at the top of his division. He scored perfectly on the tests. He did everything right.
Then last Friday, one dime-sized red spot on his belly button turned the world upside down. A referral to a dermatologist and a less than 30 second assessment ended it all for Caleb. When the word "psoriasis" was written on the record, this disqualifying condition rendered him unfit for military service. That's it. End of story. No exceptions. He was removed from his division and placed, like a leper, in a holding compartment (barracks) to wait out his discharge. Despite valiant efforts from my Navy captain brother and the commanding officer who tried everything he could to find a way to keep my son, he will be sent packing next week.
How do we reconcile what we thought for sure was God's will for Caleb and what has happened? It seemed to be exactly what Caleb needed at this time in his life. Things were going so swimmingly. The Navy was going to be his perfect ticket to pay off student loans, finish a degree, and partake in the best nuclear engineering training possible. The circumstances all pointed to the fact the God had ordained this path. But what should we think now? Were our assumptions wrong?
Does God still care? I know intellectually that He does. Has He abandoned my son? A good Father doesn't do that. Did He make a mistake or was the mistake ours to misinterpret the facts? Hard questions all in a time of crisis...except for the one about God making a mistake.
There are many instances when we can only see the work of God's hand in retrospect. Perhaps this is one of those times. It seems as though these short five weeks have developed a side of Caleb that we had never before seen. Maybe all these recent days in the holding compartment and the endless hours of introspection and conclusions reached were reason enough for this short-lived journey.
If I truly believe that God does have a perfect plan for Caleb, and I do, then I have to accept this surprise ending as a part of that plan. But it's hard. I cry because Caleb cries. I am disappointed because Caleb is disappointed. I grieve because my son grieves at the loss of a dream. I would do anything I could to "fix it." But I can't. I have neither the power nor position to fix anything.
It's easy to trust God when the way is clear and the path well lit. But do I trust Him when the road becomes shadowed and dark? I must. For the mere presence of the shadow proves the existence of the light; the light of the Father. And truly, my Father knows best.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8