Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Up and Down (04/02/09)
TITLE: Bag Lessons
By Rick Higginson
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Only one small bag hit the ground immediately. The rest were lowered with complacent inattention.
The sergeant shook his head and grimaced. “That was pathetic. I don’t know where the recruiters dug up the lot of you, but Heaven help us if you’re the best they could find. Pick your bags up.”
The same small bag seemed to leap into its owner’s hand, while the others were retrieved with looks of confusion or annoyance.
“Now, put your bags down,” the sergeant shouted, leaning towards the group with his hands on his hips. The response time was almost as bad as before. “This is not Cub Scout camp, and I am not your Den Mother. This is the United States Air Force, girls, and I am Staff Sergeant Isaac Coley. I have six weeks to turn you losers into Airmen, and I do not like what I see. PICK THOSE BAGS UP, NOW!”
The expressions on the faces ranged from shocked to frightened, as hands scrambled for the luggage.
“PUT ‘EM DOWN!” The crisp uniform and shiny polished shoes only seemed to add to the man’s imposing size. “PICK ‘EM UP! YOU’RE STILL TOO SLOW! PUT ‘EM DOWN! PICK ‘EM UP! PUT ‘EM DOWN! PICK ‘EM UP!”
The exercise went on for another half-hour, by which time most would have complained if they dared. Only a few managed to respond as quickly as Sgt. Coley seemed to want, while others were getting worse as the fatigue of constantly hefting heavy bags wore on them.
“I should send all you girls home to your mamas,” the sergeant said, crossing his arms across his chest. “In just a moment, we are going to go up to the dormitory. Down here is where we will fall out in the mornings for Physical Conditioning before breakfast. There is no smoking in the dorm. If you decide to light one up in there, I will personally take you down to the Orderly Room and send you off someplace that you will like less than here. Is that understood?”
A low chorus of “Sir, yes, sir,” emanated from the group.
“I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
“SIR, YES, SIR!”
“PICK UP YOUR BAGS AND FOLLOW ME.”
He led them up a flight of stairs and through a door attended by a uniformed recruit. When everyone had filed in and taken a position by a bed, he glared at them from under his hat. “I strongly suggest you get some sleep, because we will be getting an early start in the morning. Lights out will be in one-half hour.” He disappeared inside an office between the two bays of the dorm, and the tension in the room seemed to ease a bit.
The owner of the small bag turned towards the bed, and set the bag down on the blanket.
“You were smart, just bringing one, light bag,” the young man at the next bed said to him. “I was really regretting my heavy suitcase.”
“I knew what to expect, and only brought what I absolutely needed for traveling,” the older man said. He opened the bag and pulled out a compact Bible.
“Are you a believer? Awesome; I’ve prayed for weeks that I wouldn’t be the only one here.”
He smiled. “I prayed something similar the first time I went to Boot Camp.”
“The first time?”
“Yeah, ten years ago for the Army. I’ve been out for a few years, and got laid-off recently, so I decided to try the Air Force.”
“Did they do that bag thing, too?”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sure it does. One reason we’re here is to learn to take orders without hesitation. In a military environment, they have to condition us to respond now, not after we’ve thought about it. Lives may depend on our obedience.”
“I guess so.”
“Consider this; what you’ll learn here is the kind of response we should have when God gives an order. Do we just obey Him when we decide it’s a good idea? Paul likened the believer to a soldier, and for good reason. A good soldier obeys orders, and is prepared for action, just like we’re supposed to be.”
“I’m glad you’re here. It’ll be good to have someone to pray with.”
He extended his hand. “Shall we get down to some praying?”
The handshake was accepted, and a brother embraced. “Yeah; I’m up for that. Thank you, Lord.”
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