How We’re Learning

By Kristin Goodrich

Each of us who has worn a uniform or who is currently serving had to go through boot camp. My first-hand transition from civilian to military life happened one hot, humid summer in Maryland. Just showing up for my swearing in required a measure of bravery.

My six-week boot camp experience offered frequent opportunities to fail. Being brave required me to draw on strength beyond myself. My will, my pride, my competitive spirit could only take me so far as I faced hurdles beyond my ability.

Quickly, I learned to look outward for additional strength – and I found such strength in my always-present Savior, Jesus Christ. Through Him, I was able to do things I found too daunting.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

  • Choices I had taken for granted were now dictated by my squad leader – what to wear, when to eat, and even how to speak.
  • Challenges which seemed too hard were now mandatory—jumping off the 10-meter dive platform, calling cadence, learning basic seamanship and navigation…
  • And compatriots I would have avoided became my roommates, my squadmates, and my shipmates.

During boot camp, being brave meant putting my blistered feet into dorky athletic socks, taking a deep breath, and then shoving those sore feet into newly-acquired footgear designed by the lowest bidder on a government contract.

Since then, I have “embraced the suck” and have pushed through physical pain. I’ve swum a mile wearing my khaki uniform shirt and trousers. I’ve been on the remedial PT squad for failing my push-ups – more than once. I’ve twice missed maxing my run by two seconds.

Each time, I added another layer to the foundation of being brave while pushing through physical pain.

In boot camp, being brave meant gathering my wits and finding the courage to step out into passageways filled with screaming squad leaders. We weren’t allowed to leave our rooms unless all those in the room left together, so we had to collectively take a deep breath and head into the “scary” together.

Every day of boot camp included group challenges and opportunities to let one another down:

  • Missing a tasker such as changing uniforms
  • Wrestling with a possible honor violation
  • Being ranked last or facing a possible review board

Even when I missed the mark, my fellow newbies stood with me, at times holding me up mentally. Banding together, we can be brave when we have others standing alongside.

At night during boot camp, falling asleep was either instantaneous oblivion or next to impossible. Restless nights hung heavy with worry about the past day’s failures or fear of the next day’s pain. I began to read a couple of sentences in a devotional book I was allowed to bring. Agitation gave way to peace as I read a Bible verse or a sentence describing a basic spiritual truth.

Through the days (and nights) of boot camp, I said many help-me-now prayers, enjoyed the air-conditioning at chapel, and fell into the practice of walking with Jesus. He has been ever-faithful throughout my journey from recruit to graduate, from specialty course to initial assignments, from being issued my DD-214 separation from military service to being issued my retiree dependent ID card.

How to Rely on the Strength of Christ When You Need to Be Brave:

The lessons in courage I learned in boot camp have held true beyond uniformed military life. These are ways that Christ has faithfully strengthened me again and again. The power of Christ frees me from fear of failure.

  1. “Embrace the suck” and push through physical pain as you speak aloud the words of Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
  2. Stand together and don’t leave your friends when the going gets tough—help others rely on the strength of Christ as well. We are stronger together.
  3. Keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Walk through every day and every night with our faithful companion, Jesus Christ.

Even though I haven’t worn a uniform in decades, I continue to practice bravery by pushing myself physically and taking on new challenges. Most recently, I signed up for beginner classical ballet classes, a new kind of physical training. Not to mention that pink tights are also out of my comfort level!

Staying in the hospital room as loved ones took their last breath on earth wasn’t easy. But bravery pays dividends as I treasure the blessing of sitting with others in the midst of deep emotional pain.

Walking with Jesus means I’ve had fewer restless nights as well as more peaceful days. Notice I didn’t say that life got easier. Nope. But life has been richer with Jesus.

Your Turn:

Acknowledge how fear of failure may be impacting you. Find a way to challenge yourself this week in the physical, emotional, and/or spiritual arenas. Experience for yourself the blessings of being brave!

Verses to Ponder:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14) 


Lord, thank You for challenging me to be brave this week! When I find my strength in You, I am free from fear of failure. With You walking by my side, I know that I can push through pain, stand together when the going gets tough, and trust You to keep me on the path You’ve set before me, whether in uniform or not. Amen. 

Additional Resource:

The Midshipman’s Prayer

Almighty Father,

Whose way is in the Sea,

Whose Paths are in the Great Waters,

Whose Command is over all and

Whose Love never faileth;

Let me be aware of Thy Presence and

Obedient to Thy Will.

Keep me True to my best self,

Guarding me against dishonesty in Purpose and in Deed,

And helping me so to live that

I can stand unashamed and unafraid before

My Shipmates, My Loved Ones, and Thee.

Protect those in whose Love I Live.

Give me the Will to do my best and to accept my share of

Responsibilities with a Strong Heart and a Cheerful Mind.

Make me considerate of those Entrusted to my Leadership and

Faithful to the Duties my Country has Entrusted to me.

Let my Uniform remind me daily of the

Traditions of the service of which I am a part.

If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith;

If I am tempted, make me strong to resist;

If I miss the mark, give me courage to try again.

Guide me with the Light of Truth

And keep before me the

Life of Him by Whose example and help I trust to obtain the

Answer to my Prayer,

Jesus Christ our Lord.