I intend to become a chaplain in the Army. Just like nearly everything else in the job market, however, getting the job you want is competitive. The Army has a system established for determining who gets what they want in the officer corps and who doesn’t. It factors in a number of different things, including GPA, leadership performance at school, performance at a summer training (which will take place this summer for me), and a cadet’s final APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) at school. My final APFT was this morning. APFTs are a pretty regular occurrence. I’ve taken 3 or 4 each semester since I started the ROTC program, and I’ve done pretty well in general. I was anticipating a perfect score for this PT test, which was very attainable for me, if I put forth some extra effort; I normally score just under 100% (which is represented by a score of 300 on the APFT, 100 points per event). However, after going on a rather long run on Monday and then a moderate run on Wednesday, for some reason my leg muscles decided to quit on me. By Thursday (yesterday) I was limping around campus, frustrated and worried about my performance on the APFT. Of the three events–pushups, sit-ups, and the 2 mile run–the run was the one that I was having trouble with. It was close to but not quite hitting the 13 minute mark, which was what I needed for 100%. With the state of my muscles on Thursday, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to pass it, let alone max it, but I wasn’t going to try running and injure them in the process to find out, either. So I got home last night, and after giving it some thought I sought a priesthood blessing from my roommates. After generously setting aside time from their pressing assignments in giving me a blessing, they continued to show forth genuine concern for my well-being by offering their resources and expertise in healing damaged or sore muscles (my own roommate is particularly experienced at this). That alone was inspiring. As I got to bed and offered a fervent prayer to my Heavenly Father for assistance in this test that could determine the rest of my career, and as my faith faltered and I wondered if I should really expect to do well or not, I felt prompted to covenant with Him to share my experience and acknowledge His grace when I maxed the APFT the next day. This helped me to put forth my faith. As much as I like doing well on important things like tests, I love experiencing miracles then sharing with others the gratitude and boost in my faith and testimony they give me from knowing that I really can rely on my Heavenly Father and that He really does love me. This extra motivation added to my faith.
I retired to bed then awoke the next morning, still just as sore as before. I was still rather concerned, but I tried not to think too much about it. I showed up to PT and passed the pushups and sit-ups with flying colors, even better than I normally do. (The pushups I’ve had trouble with in the past, so I was a little concerned, but I did just fine.) Then came the run. I could still feel some soreness. I wasn’t sure what would happen. I knew I had to shoot for at least a 3:10 each lap, at least at the beginning, in case I started to slow down. We began. My legs didn’t have the bounce in them I’d like them to have, but they were carrying me forward. I used the downhills to capitalize on my long stride, and did my best on the uphill. As I made the first lap my time was 2:50. I was way ahead. The second lap was a little rough. I started to slow down, and came in at a 6:10. I had taken that lap at 3:20, adding 30 seconds. I was slowing down. If I continued to do so, I wouldn’t make it in time. As I was pushing uphill I offered another plea for help to God. I lengthened my stride and my next lap was around 9 minutes. That was very good. As I rounded the third of the four corners and neared the final stretch, I checked my time. I was at 11 minutes. I was going to make it. As I sprinted the final stretch I passed the finish line at 12:36–my best time on record, ever. In stead of the nauseous horrible feeling I usually get at the end of my APFT run from having pushed myself, my heart was filled with gratitude and joy. He had not failed me. He had paced me on my run. He was (and in truth, is) with me all the way. For some, doing well on the APFT may seem like a small blessing that I’m making a big deal about. But the circumstances surrounding it and what it meant to me is what made it a miracle. The fact that God was fully aware that I really did care a great deal about my performance, and then that He stepped in to help me, speaks volumes about Him. If you’re ever doubting His love or concern for you, know that He really does care, and that He can do -anything-. No miracle, no miracle is too great or too small for Him.
I should also say that things could have turned out differently. God does not always help us to succeed in order to truly bless us. Sometimes He helps us fail. During my first Freshman semester at BYU my bishop would always tell us a story about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon. Bishop Sackett would tell us about how he’d lapsed in his scripture study all semester, and that a big chemistry final was coming up for him, and that he really needed to study for it, but that he caught up on his Book of Mormon reading instead. When he entered the testing center, he had no idea what any of the answers were, but he did his best. As he left the testing center, he saw that he had received a nigh-perfect score. I heard this story from Bishop Sackett many times, and I started to identify with it as I, too, lapsed in my Book of Mormon reading. A big Psych test was coming up for me at the time, but I decided to put God first. I read the Book of Mormon, and had to eschew my test preparation for Psych to do so. As the time to take the test drew closer, I got the distinct feeling that something was going to be different about my experience, so I reconciled myself to accept whatever happened and give thanks to God either way. When I arrived in the testing center, I didn’t know what any of the answers were. I did my best. There was a writing section. I had no idea what to write, so I wrote instead about what I had done in stead of preparing for the test and apologized for my lack of preparation. As I left the testing center and looked at the monitor for the multiple-choice portion of my test, I saw a terrible grade next to my student ID number. Oddly enough, joy filled my heart. As I walked home, I did so with extreme gratitude for learning the value of putting God first, no matter what happens as a result.
God had blessed me by letting me fail, and I will never forget what I learned from that experience.
No storm can shake my inmost calm While to that rock I’m clinging Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth How can I keep from singing?