‘Blessed be the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.’ Psalm 144:1. Upon arrival at the Royal Military College I’m assigned a room with a roommate – hope he’s not a snorer! The mortar binding Duntroon’s bricks is a long heritage mixed with strong tradition. With clock ticking, for the next thirty-two days I will rise at 0530, shower, dress and be ready to be counted on the parade ground – hope I remember to shave! After the daily head count it’s quick march up the hill to the officer’s mess for breakfast – the grand old Duke of York and his ten thousand men constantly springs to mind! Why does every venue have to be at the top of some hill?
After breakfast we are marched off each day to practice at keeping our breakfast down during an hour and a half’s physical training. Then it’s quick march to lectures on First Aid, radio use, and sundry other things. Marches to and from lunch. There is even a march to the parade ground to learn how to march properly. ‘Left, right, left, salute to the left, salute to the right, salute to the front as the rain drips off our hat rims. Also there’s weapon’s training until we’re able to dismantle and ‘remantle’ the weapon blindfolded! Busy, busy until 2020 every day. Afterward there is homework to be done, and uniforms to be washed and ironed ready for morning. At night the mind is still too active to engage in much sleeping.
‘A time of war and a time of peace.’ Ecclesiastes 3:8b. Majura Military Range in Canberra is beautiful. Lichen-covered jagged rocks growing out of the ground like graveyard headstones met us on our arrival. Live ammunition target-practice is halted as a big red kangaroo bounds through the right to left of arc of fire. Viewed through telescopic sights its rhythmic springing is poetry in motion! Lord, You have made all things well! I can hear myself breathing. I can hear my heart beat as I squeeze off my shots. ‘Good grouping, padre!’
‘When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.’ Isaiah 59:19b. With full to overflowing backpacks and waist webbing loaded with blank ammo it’s off to spend some time in among the gum trees. The breath of darkness chills our bones and blinds our eyes as part of its advance attack on our Section. With boots still on no sooner am I in my sleeping bag when I hear, ‘Stand to!’ I scramble out of my frozen cocoon with rifle in hand and stumble through canister-smoke to take up my preselected position. The darkness has a weapon in its hands. The end of its gun is in flames and gives its position away as it rushes at me like a night steam train. Just as well I am firing blank rounds, as the darkness knows it has been hit over and over. The shadow goes down. Lord, could I do this for real? The wounded darkness moans. Then it’s off and running again, weapon blazing. Danger over I was to have some shuteye before taking my turn to watch the darkness. With my nose poking out of my sleeping bag and my heart rate gradually slowing, sleep was almost on my breath. Then I hear the word, ‘Halt!’ It’s out of the sleeping bag again. But it’s just a false alarm. The intruder is a huge, but thankfully unarmed, kangaroo!
‘When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.’ Psalm 63:6. No sooner am I jammed back into my sleeping bag (boots and camouflage uniform still on!) than it’s my turn for a two-hour watch. Ah, the night constellation bears silent witness to my weary soul. ‘When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You should visit him?’ Psalm 8:3-4. I thank God that He has visited us in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. In the quietness of the night I consider the paradox of why wars need to be fought in order to keep the peace.
‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ Ephesians 6:12. As Christians our battle is spiritual. With the binoculars of God’s written Word we are able to see what’s going on behind enemy lines. Evil must be stopped. Onward! Christian soldiers, / Marching as to war / With the Cross of Jesus / Going on before. (Sabine Baring-Gould)
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Revelation 21:4. Christians have a glorious future.