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Aug24MonI rediscovered an essay I wrote for training college 20 years ago. What would I find? August 24, 2020 by Major Elaine Locke
Above: “As I look at my life today and compare it to the expectations I penned so many years ago, I sincerely pray that I have represented well the gift of influence,” says Mjr Elaine Locke (Photo: Mjr Jamie Locke)
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Has it really been 20 years since I applied for training college? It feels like only yesterday I was sitting at the kitchen table, pen and paper in hand, writing entrance assignments. I was 17 years old, young and inexperienced, but ready and willing to take on the world of ministry with eyes wide open and a heart dedicated to God.
It was during those days of study and preparation that I was asked to write a paper on the theme, “The officer I want to be in 2020.” The year 2020 seemed so far beyond the horizon back then, but as I gathered my thoughts and crafted a vision, dreams and ideals became marks of ink on paper. I can still recall that welling sense of passion, determination and excitement about the future God had in store for my life.
Little did I know that my mom tucked this gem away for two decades. In January, as I unfolded the still-crisp white paper and stared at those words, “The officer I want to be in 2020,” it was hard to hold back the tears. I was overwhelmed by Mom’s thoughtfulness in keeping this for me, but then it became a little nerve wracking. Would I live up to the expectations I had 20 years ago?
As I scanned the pages, I discovered I still had many hopes and dreams to live up to, but the thing that caught my attention was the simple phrase, written in bold letters: “A woman of influence.” When I surrendered my life to God’s calling so many years ago, the sincere prayer of my heart was to be a woman of influence, a woman of faith who would make a difference in the lives of others. It’s clear I wanted to be an officer who was deeply rooted in Christ, someone whose actions and words would bless others and influence their lives positively. It’s also quite clear that I was excited, anticipating future blessings. In my idealism, I had painted a picture of officership as the means by which I would lead others to Christ and create change in the world. Yes, I knew it would involve significant responsibility, and that challenging moments would come, but I was confident in my ability to trust God and the knowledge that he would guide me.
Officership has given me many positive experiences, and God has used these experiences to solidify my passion to influence others with the gospel message and live out acts of kindness. But there have also been not-so-great times, moments when sorrow and hurt overwhelmed me and could have caused significant damage, had God not found a way to use people to nudge me, my husband and family in the right direction.
The 17-year-old me was perhaps naive not to realize that challenges along the journey would be required to help me grow and mature as a leader within The Salvation Army. It can’t always be butterflies and rainbows, even though I do love butterflies and rainbows and happy moments. As I look back, I can see now that the dark moments when I questioned God and myself are also when I became totally reliant upon him. It was when I was brought to my knees, pleading with God for clarity, wisdom and peace, that I found it.
I’ve also learned that God always comes through; he never disappoints. It just takes perseverance and patience on our end, which is probably why we named our third child “Patience,” to remind my husband and me, a dynamic-duo ministry team, to practise the art of patience.
As I look at my life today and compare it to the expectations I penned so many years ago, I sincerely pray that I have represented well the gift of influence. I pray that God, through his greatness, in every situation, the good times and the not-so-good times, has used me as a vessel to speak into the lives of others with hope and grace.
I’m thankful for the reality check and reflection opportunity my “The officer I want to be in 2020” paper has given me. I can see how far I’ve come, and that the goals and priorities I set for myself so long ago are still evident in my life today and remain consistent with my aspirations for tomorrow.
Major Elaine Locke is the special events co-ordinator for the public relations department in the Maritime Division.