More than ‘Marco Polo’
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you… (Jeremiah 29:13, 14a–NKJV).
The other night, Bill and I sat poolside watching Jacob play ‘Marco Polo’ with two other young men and his sister Allie. They each took their turn being “It” — closing their eyes and calling out, “Marco,” then listening for the other participants’ voices echoing, “Polo.”
They were like children — these three young, military-bound men. They’d just met one another, only a few hours earlier. They share no common history — only a goal for their futures: To serve their country in a particular branch of the Armed Forces.
In only a few minutes, Bill and I learned a bit about these boys. David was to depart with Jacob the following morning — like him, a Navy recruit headed for Great Lakes, Illinois. From the Statesville, NC area, he was an athlete.
Joshua was scheduled to visit MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) the next day — to undergo a physical, including an optical evaluation. He explained that one of his eyes wanders, “… like a lizard’s,” he laughed. He would soon learn if this defect would keep him from moving forward with his dream to join the military. He hoped it wouldn’t; after all, he desired more for his life.
Chattier than David, Joshua explained that he’d been raised by an abusive father near Concord, NC. His mother, a severe diabetic, was no longer in the picture. When he was born, he wasn’t expected to live past the age of five, but he’d overcome those odds and is now nineteen. He has plans for his life. He wants to see the world by serving his country, and he hopes a minor visual impairment won’t hinder his dream’s fulfillment.
Across his right arm and the left side of his chest are detailed tattoos. The one on his chest is scripture, from the book of the Bible bearing his name.
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life… I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5).
From the little we learned of Joshua, I wondered if life with an abusive father had inspired this body art and if it perhaps inspired this young man’s desire to depart his home and serve — to protect and defend. Regardless, I was thankful Joshua seemed to know in whom to place his trust — the One who always defends and protects. The One who takes all the imperfections of this sinful world and makes something beautiful, something purposeful from them. Yes, the One we believe —
…works all things together for good for those who love [Him] and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
As we watched these young people playing in the pool — seeking and finding one another with splashes and shrieks of laughter — I was reminded of the passage from Jeremiah, where God promises through His prophet to be found by those who seek Him with all their hearts.
And I thought I heard, amidst the banter of these military-bound young men, God’s whisper — a reminder that He was indeed working all things together for good, for each of them. For David. For Joshua.
Yes, for our Jacob.
God’s timing is indeed perfect. Even though we were disappointed a couple weeks ago when we discovered that — despite covering him with earnest prayers — Jacob wouldn’t be shipping out as planned, returning to Charlotte with him again allowed us to meet David and Joshua.
It allowed us those poolside moments — reminding us that these young men who’ve chosen to be transformed from civilians to sailors (or soldiers) are someone’s sons. The pasts they’ve either enjoyed or endured have helped shape them to become who God desires them each to be, and He wastes no joy or sorrow
The game ended, and everyone got out. Allie felt, in only a short time, that she had two more brothers — receiving their jibes and teasing like a dutiful little sister. And although they weren’t our sons, before we left the pool, we asked if they minded if we all prayed together — to which David humbly replied, “That would be very much appreciated.”
We gathered in a tight circle, water puddling at our feet as we joined hands. Bill blessed them each by name, asking God’s protection upon them in the days to come. He prayed that God’s will would be accomplished in their lives, that He would guide them in their futures. Then I concluded, reminding God of His promise — to never leave nor forsake them — and I asked Him to make them each strong and courageous, no matter where life takes them in their journeys.
After “Amen,” we hugged each one and sent them off to bed, like any good parent would do. We were left feeling as though we’d been standing on holy ground.
And yesterday, we witnessed as Jacob and David raised their right hands — promising to protect our country, to preserve the United States Constitution with their lives. And now they’re off — to basic training for the next couple months, and we’ll miss our funny, bright boy. But we believe God’s got good things in store for him.
Joshua we’ll likely never see again, though we can carry him in our prayers to a loving Father. His eye defect certainly might keep him from his dream of a military career, but we hope that, no matter what, he’ll trust that God is with him in everything he’ll do.
Just as a young Italian explorer named Marco Polo made discoveries that benefited multitudes, these young men have the opportunity to take their joy and passion beyond mere childish pastimes, to change the world. God is with them — promising to be discovered when they search for Him with all their hearts.
That’s my prayer for Jacob — for Joshua and David, too. Yes, boys…
Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6a).