Afraid to Lead

Hey Guys! Josh here! I am "guest blogging(?)" this week for Paige. I don't really know the format of a blog so I'm just kind of winging it here. Anyway, Paige asked me to come on here and expand a little more on one of the themes of my recovery: the fear to lead.

A lot of my veteran buddies reached out to me about this theme after listening to a speech I gave at my friend's church last week. Learning that I was afraid to lead was one of the most surprising things I learned about myself. I can't fully explain it without talking about 2018.

Back in 2018, Paige tricked me into going to a small group. She told me that we were going to a "church thing" at someone's house. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, Paige informed me that we were actually at the first night of a small group that met once a week until the end of spring. What?? I thought. It's basketball season! I don't have time for this! Paige said that if I absolutely hated it, I did not have to come back. I knew I wouldn't hate it, but I also knew I wanted to get out of it. That first night, I gave the group the whole "thanks for inviting me but I'll be here in spirit from now on" vibe. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how honest the guys were right off the bat. So many of the problems sounded both serious and familiar to me-- marriage problems, drinking problems, work problems, etc. At the end of the first night, I thought this might be something worth sticking with.

Well, it was. Throughout the semester, this group and God's Word helped me understand the freedom that I lacked in my life. As I listened and asked questions, my thought process became more like an unraveling of bad theology than some great revelation...

Soon after I got out of the Army, I began to think that my time of service was something God was going to have to "get over" in order to love me. This was confusing and frustrating because when I was deployed, I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing and why I was doing it. Then, I retire and all of the sudden I felt like I was of two worlds that didn't fit together. I was certain that retirement meant my role in life was just to chill and fly under the radar. Part of that logic came from being exhausted and the other part was what I didn't realize I believed about my time of service. As I went through this small group I realized my fear to lead stemmed from believing that my injury caused every injury or death that occurred after.

"I realized my fear to lead stemmed from believing that my injury caused every injury or death that occurred after."

When I first got to Afghanistan, I was originally a 240 gunner. However, after a string of incidents with IED's, I volunteered for the job of leading our element as they followed me behind the metal detector. After my first couple of months in Afghanistan, I felt like I knew what to look for and could keep my platoon safe. The day I was injured, I was holding this metal detector and found the first non-metallic IED in our area. After I left country, bad things continued to happen to my guys and with every bit of bad news I continued to think ...if I had been there. Six years of stuffing these feelings down created a debilitating fear to do lead.

I didn't want to lead in my family, in my workplace, heck... I didn't want to be the first person in a line. I left all decision-making up to my wife and I'm not talking about what we were having for dinner. I didn't want to help decide how my children were raised or whether we went to church; I even outlawed public speaking for a while because I thought putting it behind me would make it go away. I wanted to just start over as if it never happened.

Here's the thing, that's not an option for veterans. We carry the scars of war with us everywhere we go. What I had to learn was if I let Satan tell the story of the scars, they would be all about the failures, what I should have done, and how it all equalled devastation for other people. When I let God take control of the narrative, I slowly began to realize two great purposes in what's left of my life:

  1. That Revelation 12:11 is real: I will overcome the shame and guilt by the blood of Jesus Christ and the word of my testimony. My story will not only help other people, but the telling it would strengthen me and keep me on course.

  2. It is my duty as a survivor to breathe life into the legacy of those who didn't survive. My wife was such a friend to me during these times. She saw me quickly outlaw discussions about my deceased comrades. As compassionately and as firmly as she could, Paige said "we did not survive all of this just to never speak the names of those who gave everything for their country." I cannot let my fear keep me from telling my children about Sgt. Juan Navarro and other men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. If we don't speak their names, who will?

My encouragement for veterans is this: leadership, though it may feel weird in the civilian world, it is what we are meant to do. Leadership now just requires more critical thinking because there is no Battle Drill 1A for the civilian world. It's not automatic, thus it requires some vulnerability which feels wrong to people that have survived combat. But what if it saves another veteran? What if it helps you make sense of what's happened to you? What if you find people willing to help you carry the burden? What if you realize you can carry more of the load that you've thrown on your family?

"Leadership now just requires more critical thinking because there is no Battle Drill 1A for the civilian world."

I think I have decided that healing is going to be a lifelong commitment, and while that sounds like a grueling climb, the alternative is that I spent all my time and energy hiding, fearful, and sidelined in my own life. Christ's death on the cross defeated anything that could keep me from having an abundant life. An abundant life is not a comfortable life with a bunch of stuff. It's a life where souls are saved every day by what Christ did and the proof of Christ living in me.

Hope you guys enjoyed this one! Thank you for reading!