I’ve spent the past two weeks of May deployed on Hawaii’s island of Kauai with the California Air National Guard 149th Combat Communications Squadron.
Predictably, most of my friends reacted to my deployment news with a sarcastic, “That must be tough duty.”
“Hey,” I jokingly responded, “Hawaii was attacked once, and we must remain prepared.”
The truth is we had a serious mission: practice setting up communications in the aftermath of a hurricane. It involved much the same kind of problem-solving families do during hurricane season with communication, shelter, food, power and transportation.
Our principle mission was done by our communications people, who busied themselves pulling cable under streets, climbing utility poles and programming computers.
In support of the communication mission, our engineers built tents and ran power lines. Our food-services people fed us in the field while our medics tended to strained backs and strep throat. Our transportation planned buses, rental cars and transport planes, while our personnel group kept good records to assure we’d all be paid.
My job involved planning how I’d conduct worship services, liturgy and music. I worked on a provision for airman of other faiths and found a place to counsel airmen who might be enduring a sudden deployment.
Being well-prepared to weather storms makes sense. It also makes sense to do the same in one’s spiritual life.
Jesus told a story that contains a spiritual truth for all traditions. If you’ve ever missed a party because of lack of preparation, you’ll identify with the story.
He compared our approach to spirituality to 10 young bridesmaids who were traveling to a wedding. Five of the women were “silly and five were smart.” They all brought lamps for their journey, but only the smart women took extra oil.
When the wedding celebration began, only the smart women were equipped for the extended celebration; the silly women missed the party as they wandered in the darkness looking for extra oil.
While the parable has some twists that leave Biblical scholars scratching their heads, I hear encouragement for me to be spiritually prepared for the dark moments of life and the celebrations of life.
Being prepared for hurricanes involves life’s basic needs such as shelter, water, food and power. In the same way, being prepared for life’s dark storms involves basic preparation: meditation, study and community.
In my Christian tradition, we call them prayer, Bible study and church. Yet no matter what your tradition — whether the newest of new age or the oldest of earth-based traditions — it still boils down to these basics.
The women who failed were lacking in all three basics. They had not bothered to slow down and think (mediate or pray) about their task. They obviously didn’t read the lamp’s owner’s manual (study), and they failed to heed the direction of the smarter bridesmaids (community).
Spiritual preparedness may involve varying traditions and strategies, but it will always require the same navigational tools: meditation, study and community. May God give you the wisdom to use those tools.
Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. Visit www.the chaplain.net.