.....Joe began automatically filling out the areas of the form asking for his basic information. The purpose of the form, he saw, was ascertaining the reason for his promotion. The first section merely wanted his full name, date of birth, current address, names of parents, stuff like that. Joe filled out his mother's name, Rachel Jamison. He glanced over to the blank labeled, "Name of Father," but luckily his eye caught a small box in the corner labeled "Single Parent." Gratefully, Joe checked the box.
Not that he did not have a father; Joe knew there must have been one, but he was not a part of his son's life at all. Rachel Alban had led an idyllic singlehood, but her aim and highest goal had always been to marry the perfect man and have plenty of children. She knew she had found the one when she met the man who had been Joseph's father, Captain Jamison, a soldier in the Marines. They, of course, had Joseph, but then Rachel's dreams of being the model Army wife were shattered when she became an Army widow. Rachel felt somehow deceived, somehow sold short of her goal. She wanted more than just the one son; especially when little Joe began exhibiting behaviors that irritated her: he was too quiet, he read too much, he talked too smart for someone his age, and many others as he grew. Rachel began to see that if she wanted the family of her dreams, she needed to be searching for the right man with which to make that family.
Thus began a steady stream of men in and out of Joe's life. All of them were father material to the mother; none of them were father-figures in any way to the son. Inevitably, the search for the perfect husband (or at least a perfect boyfriend) caused the death of Rachel Jamison, when her son was only fifteen years old. Upon her death, however, Joe discovered that, far from leaving him destitute, his mother had at least set aside enough money to pay for one year's tuition at the college of his choice. Joe, following a hint from his mother that his father had been a soldier, opted for West Point.
Once there, however, Joseph became acutely and painfully aware of just how unique and specially gifted he was.
Living at home and going to public school, Joseph had endured the surprised stares of teachers as he turned in excellent homework assignments every time, and in grade school none of the others really cared much about how fast the others got their work done, or how grades compared, anyway. Within his home his mom all but ignored him as long as his grades were good, so Joseph continued functioning and reasoning as he always did. Entering high school at fourteen, however, Joseph quickly received his first inkling that something set him apart from the other kids his age.
First, there was his affinity for foreign languages. There was a mandatory second language program at his grade school, and parents could choose from three languages taught at the school: Spanish, German, and French. Unbeknownst to Rachel, the three forms her son brought home at the beginning of the school year for her to sign (which she did, very impatiently and unconcernedly) were not for the same class; Joseph got her to sign him up for all three classes, and for the next several years, Joseph handled three beginning language classes with uncanny ease. By the time he entered high-school, Joseph was nearly fluent in at least those three languages. The foreign language program in high school offered Chinese in addition to the standard three, so Joseph eagerly tackled that language for the year.
He was also an exceptionally well-mannered young boy, conscientiously picking up on social cues even at a very young age. Such a skill made him popular in elementary school, as the other kids appreciated the way he was always nice to them and always seemed to know the right things to say and do, but his keen mannerliness all but alienated him from the other high school kids. They called him "dork" and "nerd" and "show-off" and "prissy" and --most painful of all-- "spacey." He never gave an incorrect answer to any question, but his constantly pensive demeanor gave others the impression that perhaps Joe Jamison did not always reside on planet Earth. Joe, finding himself again rejected, first by his mother and now by his peers, grew discouraged. He began withdrawing from everyone in his life, and when his mother died a year after he began high school, he knew he would rather join the ROTC in preparation to enter West Point Academy than face another year at high school. Perhaps in the military setting Joe could find at least a few people with whom he could intellectually relate, and if not, well, surely they would take him more seriously there than in high school.
It only took two months for Joe to discover how wrong he was. The ROTC, from his perspective, was exactly like high school, but involved more rules and restrictions and the instructors demanded more of the cadets than the high school teachers their students. The name-calling persisted, only instead of “spacey” Joseph was branded the more refined name of “space cadet.” By the time he entered West Point, Joseph felt completely alone in the world, and lost in his own mental capacity.
In the present, Joe paused in his reminiscing to thank God he had found Him in that uncertain time.
With all the pressure and instability Joseph felt, he knew it would have been too easy to resist all forms of social interaction in spite of his aptitude, and to turn to countless other methods and substances even the others of his unit began trying and using to cope with the emptiness he felt in his soul. Joseph recalled the exact date, April 5, 20--, when he happened upon a tract someone had just discarded in front of him.
"LOST?" It read.
Joseph picked up the tract, reading the questions that resonated with the ones even now spinning in his head.
"Have you ever wondered why you are here? Is it enough to know, like most will tell you, that you have an ambiguous, indefinite purpose in the Circle of Life? Did you ever think it could be possible to have a specific reason WHY you are THE WAY YOU ARE? Would you like to be directed by Somebody willing to SHOW you the right way to live, rather than just TELLING you? Chaplain Lucas Grace can help you! Come to Chapel on Easter Sunday to hear the Greatest News Ever Told!"
By the time he finished the tract, Joe was so excited about the prospect of finding answers to his questions he folded the tract, slipped it into his shirt pocket and continued to his next class with a lighter step. It occurred to the young cadet that he had seen several cadets on campus handing out flyers and tracts just like this one, but he had always passed them by assuming they were just hawking another religion or life-change philosophy, one for which a busy student already too pensive for his own good would not need. He probably would not have accepted from them the flyer he now carried in his pocket, yet he noted with irony that the cadet that did accept the paper originally, ultimately rejected its message.
Joseph attended the service, and he was so enraptured by the message the Chaplain shared that he stayed behind after everyone else left to speak with Chaplain Grace alone.
Lucas Grace had served as the Chaplain at West Point for twenty-three years, and in spite of that many sermons, the number of cadets taking the opportunity to dedicate their lives to Christ decreased as the years progressed. Chaplain Grace often had to combat the discouraging thought that once the cadets stopped coming forward, he would stop preaching; he fought it with the reassurance that this chapel, this time is where God had him, to preach the Gospel and make disciples, not just to win converts. Every time he was tempted to quit, Lucas would consider whether the next year, after he was gone, a cadet would come looking for God, and Lucas would have missed the opportunity. That's what he had asked himself on Christmas, and now on Easter, he received his answer in the form of the wide-eyed, shy, lonely new cadet named Joseph.
Joseph was looking for answers, and he was looking for a purpose. Chaplain Grace showed him the message of the Bible, and Joseph knew that this was the answer and the directive he was looking for. He threw himself into believing and founding his life on the principles of the Bible as ardently as he pursued his studies, if not even more so. If ever again he felt the old disorientation or confusion coming on, Joseph would immediately turn to prayer and the Word of God. He met with Chaplain Grace multiple times during the week, and the older man became the father-figure and mentor Joseph never had but always sought.
Chaplain Grace, far from thinking Joseph "spacey," encouraged the young man to view his proficiency in languages and his keen perceptiveness as gifts instead of hindrances. He inspired the young cadet to choose the field he felt God calling him to, and so Joseph chose two focuses he felt utilized and amplified the skills he already had, in a wider, more applicable manner: a Master's degree in World Cultures and Religions, with an undergraduate in World Languages.A few years later, Joseph, a junior officer, received a freshman roommate, Benjamin Samson. Joseph immediately brought him to Chapel, and in very short order, Benjamin also joined the small "Bible mentor sessions," as Joseph called them. Joseph recognized the hand of God in first leading Joseph to Himself, then bringing to him a young man open to the Gospel for a roommate, so every evening and morning, Joseph and Benjamin spent an hour in reading the Bible and in prayer. Joseph felt that these quality times made anything he faced during the days and weeks bearable, even the unexpected promotion to lieutenant and subsequent deployment to Florida that had cropped up in the space of two months. One minute Joseph had been attending a lecture on "The Spiritual Motivations of a Believer in A Religion Without A Centralized Deistic System," and the next he was riding in the familiar green jeep to the airfield for a flight to Tampa with a brand-new silver bar on his uniform and a letter of recommendation in his pocket.