Of the 158.45 million tickets sold during the opening weekend of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” six of them were bought by Air Force chaplains attending a course in Montgomery, Ala. I know because I was one of them.
We were in need of a break from the enthralling classroom discussions about budgets, manpower and performance reports, so we drove to a local theater where we bought a truckload of popcorn and squeezed thigh-to-thigh into a row of seats.
Amazingly, some of the same chaplains who had taken copious notes during the budget lectures quickly lost consciousness during the Jedi business meetings. Nevertheless, as we left the theater, we formed a happy choir humming the “Star Wars” theme.
But outside in the bright sunlight, I did a quick about-face after realizing I’d forgotten my prescription sunglasses. Now, I’ll save you the sticky and sickly details of my solo search, but suffice it to say that, after 10 minutes, I returned empty-handed with my shoes smacking on the pavement.
“Well,” asked Lt. Col. Doug Slater, “why don’t we go back inside and look for them together?”
Pointing to the soiled spots on the knees of my jeans, I warned: “I don’t think you want your nice clothes looking like this.” Apparently no one told them to save their church clothes for Sunday.
But to really understand my protest, you should know these guys all have ranks high enough for me to call them by the same name: “Sir.”
“Never mind our clothes,” Doug insisted, as he turned to double-time the group back into the theater.
In the lobby, I shared my most sickening fear. “It’s possible I threw them away with my snack trash.” With that revelation, a few guys started pawing through the exit trash can. In case you’re taking notes, theater trash is a real appetite suppressor.
With no luck there, we returned to the same floors and seats that I’d previously searched. Through it all, not wanting to see their clothes ruined, I kept urging them to give it up.
Suddenly, Maj. Ken Reyes held up my glasses’ case, “Are these yours?”
“Yes,” I said, blushing, as I felt the embarrassment of it all.
Later, I reflected on how often the total sum of the difference between success and failure is directly proportional to the friends you have, but not just any friends, friends with servant hearts.
The same kind of hearts Jesus demanded of his disciples after overhearing their desire to be the greatest in the new God Kingdom. Jesus warns them that following God can’t be about who is greatest.
“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave.” (Mark 10:44)
These chaplains who had run their hands under the theater seats were the same guys with whom I’d spent the previous afternoon learning how to write an Officer Evaluation Report. OPRs are the annual report cards that weigh heavily on future promotions. These reports are often filled with creative superlatives that demonstrate the ability of the chaplain to walk on water or at least turn it into wine (grape juice, if you’re a Baptist).
Regardless of the superlatives, I think I’d like to add a line to their future OPRs, which would say something about their willingness to be servants. And it would include the Norris translation of the above verse. Something like, “Stick your head in a trash can for a friend, and there’s a good chance you’re the kind of person who’ll be making the final cut for God’s team.”