Q: What is the toughest part of night land navigation?
A: The darkness makes a challenging task even more difficult.
I attended Infantry BNCOC in July 1997. One of the tasks for graduation was individual night land navigation (LandNav), in which we each had to find three out of four points within three hours in the foothills of the Ozarks at Camp Robinson, AR.
I found my points in the allotted time, turned in my “passport card” at the finish point for grading and waited with others in my class as the rest of our classmates drifted into the finish point. We knew anyone who didn’t make it before the three-hour cut-off would have to test again or be dropped from the course. There was one Sergeant who hadn’t checked in yet, which puzzled us all. He was SGT Pelango and a very experienced NCO with a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Ranger tab, and Ranger Scroll combat patch. He was still out there in the darkness.
One by one, as our classmates rolled in – especially those who self-identified as having trouble with landnav – we started to seriously wonder where SGT Pelango was. Our LandNav-challenged classmates began to share stories about getting lost and fearing failure of the LandNav course. However, they said they were each found by Pelango. He re-oriented each person to their location and sent them on their way, at the expense of time he needed to pass the LandNav course himself. He was still out there in the darkness…finding lost Soldiers and pointing them in the right direction.
About five minutes after the three-hour deadline passed, Pelango raced to the finish point. He found all of his points in the first hour, but didn’t go to the finish point because this meant he would have to stay in the finisher holding area. Instead, he stayed on the course to guide those lost in the dark. Pelango failed night LandNav due to missing the time requirement. He would have to retest. The next night he passed the night LandNav course in just over an hour.
SGT Pelango helped those lost in the dark at his own cost.
The Walking in the Dark series follows the book of Job (link) over three weeks. It acknowledges that we all “walk in the dark” at numerous times in our lives. I originally thought about calling the series “Finding God in the Dark” but was corrected by a fellow pastor that we don’t “find God” in the dark, rather it’s most accurate to realize that God has been with each of us all along…and walks with us into the dark places of life.
“It is important to recognize that the book of Job tells us almost nothing about the nature of God. It explores the nature of how humans react when they’re in the dark. It teaches us how we should walk when darkness is all around us.” @GeeSprague
The book of Job illustrates the truth of life: Bad things DO happen to good people…to all people; which is a result of the broken nature of our world. Humanity is the victim of itself. However, God is present with Job in his suffering. God displays this throughout scripture.
SO WHAT? What does the book of Job have to do with me?
Darkness is disorienting and harbors the unknown and unseeable.
– We all lose our compass or our pace-count.
– Our batteries burn out in our night vision goggles and flashlights.
Job teaches us that God is with us as we walk in the dark. Although God remains silent for much of this story, God is present. Most of the struggles we face are best remedied by the company of others rather than their words. God is with us. God was with Job in his tragedy. God was with Christ in his passion. God walks with us in our darkness.
Phil Klay’s book “Redeployment” tells the story of a Soldier about to go on a combat patrol who goes to speak with the chaplain. He asks, “Why should I pray for God’s protection when I know he won’t guarantee my safety during this patrol?” The chaplain replies, “That’s not what Christ promises. Christ doesn’t promise to remove our suffering. He promises to be with us during it.”
It is interesting to realize that the Army knows that training in the dark actually makes us more effective, efficient, and expert Soldiers.
What if we, as people of faith, recognized the same principle ~ walking in the dark is unavoidable yet also beneficial to our life as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ.
WHAT NOW? What are we supposed to do now with this understanding?
Reflect on what the present “darkness” in your life specifically looks like. How might this draw you closer to God instead of push you away?
Realize this: as with Job, God is walking with you in your darkness. Just like the SGT Pelango illustration, through Christ, God walks with those of us lost in the dark at His own cost.
[redux series from JUN2015]