She was a girly girl with a will of steel. Defined by pink and purple, extravagant and ornate dresses, and a sweet disposition. She also loved animals, particularly soft, cuddly ones.
She grew up with Disney heroines, believing that she was a princess and acting like one too. When she was little, she took a canoe by herself out to the center of a pond and sat there, gazing at the sky and the water; she fell off a horse when she was in fourth grade and got back on; she climbed up walls like a gazelle.
But when she entered the army, it was without a great deal of resolve. She knew that she needed to do it, yet had no ambition nor desire to excel. “I will do my service,” she said, “and then be free.” No more and no less.
The first year was horrific. We received a great many calls from her with a variation on the theme, “Why have you brought our family to Israel, and why should I be subjected to this kind of thing?” Our responses of “Zionism,” “Fulfillment of prophecy,” and “God’s calling” all fell on deaf ears. She, quite simply, hated the army and was not so thrilled with her parents’ decision to raise her here in Israel.
A Change of Mind
I am not quite sure how it happened, but suddenly one day she stopped complaining and basically changed her mind. She decided that since she had to do this thing called the army for another year, she would be the best soldier she could be.
Studying had never been easy for her. She needed to work hard. She never “got it” on the first or even second try. Nevertheless, when she did get it as she studied in the army, she performed excellently and helped others to do so as well.
She then earned a place as a commander and was the most beloved one in the unit. She was both firm and fair. She loved her soldiers, and they loved her. She made her share of mistakes but was able to laugh at herself. Those in a superior position saw her strength, tenacity, and diligence. She worked harder than she had ever worked in her life, and she flourished.
She came home last week, almost finished with her service. They called her back for a ceremony one afternoon, and she was annoyed. (She had just finished painting her nails purple, and now she would have to take off the polish! Bother!) But she called a little later in the day and told us that she had received the Outstanding Soldier award and was as surprised as she could be. We all were—surprised, proud, and grateful. Yet she had earned it!
Time for Goodbyes
Her final week in the army ensued, during which she utilized every creative bone in her slender body and made beautiful gifts for those who had been her friends. The house was in complete disarray as she cut, painted, glued, and wrapped to create intricate and lovely keepsakes for her friends.
Finally, the day arrived when we joined her at the base for her goodbye party. It was a windy, sunny spring day, and we drove with mixed emotions. I didn’t understand myself as I felt my eyes welling up. This had been an outstanding experience for an outstanding soldier, led and guided all the way by the hand of her loving heavenly Father. All it had taken was a decision on her part to do the best that she could in the situation in which she had found herself.
That’s all it ever takes for any of us, I realized—a decision to live well, give fully, and enter into all that God has planned for us from before the foundation of the earth.
We had brought a voluminous amount of food, and it was all eaten. I watched my daughter surrounded by friends, commanders, and those who had been under her command. She laughed, joked, and received accolades, hugs and kisses, and presents.
The blessings they gave her brought us all to tears. She had overcome! She had done an outstanding job! She had displayed a joy, a persistence, and a sense of humor that had caused her to be greatly loved and admired. She was renowned for constantly putting on face creams and for displaying kindness, energy, and a spirit that refused to quit. Everyone loved her.
I watched in awe as this young woman who had complained so bitterly stated with tears that leaving the army was one of the hardest things that she had ever had do to.
We left her on the base saying her goodbyes, laughing and crying with her friends. And we knew beyond any doubt that this army experience had been a life-changing event—and a metaphor for us all.
Keep going. Use face cream. Don’t get so tired that you can’t help others. Do your job, and go the extra mile. Laugh. Call upon the reserves within. Forgive.
Love. Leave when the time is up. Say thank you. End well.
Though unknown, her next adventure will be rich with promise, as she has built up a reserve of strength and endurance. God bless her and all those who serve in difficult circumstances.
Sometimes the turning point has everything to do with us.