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Chaplain's Corner: Chasing the sun on the road to self-discovery

By Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Ronald Lawrence | JBER Protestant Chaplain | March 5, 2015


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

Text I was recently reminded of something Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, has often said - "Every Airman's got a story."

I certainly hear that loud and clear, and I find it just as true of me as it is for any of us serving, whether in blue or green. 

Not long ago, I embarked on an adventure that would take me from the East Coast of the U.S. to the Last Frontier - the great state of Alaska. There I was, nearly 40 years old, being uprooted from the state where I had spent most of my life.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I was in a state of mixed emotions - not certain if I wanted to leave the place that held so many memories of joy, contentment, peace and love, along with sorrow, regrets and fears.
Still, it was the place where all I had known, including family and friends, was so close. Life as I knew it was there.

As I made my way west, I navigated a lot of ground. I traveled across the open fields of the Mid-west, the corn fields of Iowa, and through such places as the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Rocky Mountains of Montana.
I entered the mountainous region of Idaho and crossed into the state of Washington. From there I proceeded south, and crossed the state line into Oregon.

As I drove along Oregon 84, an interesting thing happened. I began to notice that the sky was growing dark, yet the light still shone brightly on the horizon. Living on the East Coast had afforded me multiple opportunities to witness beautiful sunrises.

In fact, I have seen the sun rise and set from many places around the world. However, this was my first experience driving towards the setting sun, not quite being able to catch up. It was as if I was somehow chasing the sun. 
Looking back over these past few years I've spent in Alaska, I did not fully understand what this journey was going to mean for me.

I set out on my travels, heading toward the Last Frontier, and as I was discovering the great expanse of real estate in between, I was discovering some things about myself.

What I realized is the "last frontier" is not about Alaska at all. I discovered the frontier I have been heading for is the vast, farthest regions of my heart.

The Christian scriptures tell me that matters of the heart are difficult, because "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

However, there is one who searches and knows my heart better than even I do. It seems the more I pursue, the darker it tends to get.

And yet, there is a pervasive light always illuminating the darkness thus allowing me to move toward a brighter tomorrow with endless possibilities. 

Much that I have gone through in my life has led me here to this place, and it is here my dreams have begun to unfold. Since coming to Alaska, I have seen an ability within me come forth; I know my purpose and I have found my place.

As I learn more about myself and who I am, I realize that there are many others here that are finding this to be true for themselves. 

Some people are beginning new journeys here; others are finding that their efforts in life have begun to flower in Alaska. All these things - and more - contribute to our stories. It is a wise thing to take inventory of our lives and learn from the narratives attached to each of us.

This will help us tell our story to others, and perhaps encourage them in their journeys. After all, every Airman's got a story.