Me on Mount Olympus in Cyprus
I’ve written a fair number of posts about lessons that the Lord has taught me over the years, but I haven’t written too much about about some of the mistakes I’ve made and regrets I have. There are a number of those for sure, but one in particular seems to be forever etched in my mind.
Many years ago, when I was in the Canadian Armed Forces, I was doing a six month stint with the United Nations Peacekeeping forces in Cyprus. We worked out of a small Swedish base just outside of Famagusta in Cyprus. Famagusta was situated in the northern part of Cyprus and controlled by the Turkish Armed Forces at that time.
There where about 15 Canadians who lived together in a metal hut that resembled the top half of a cookie. We had a small kitchen and we cooked all of our own meals there. We worked with a British Army Signals Squadron and once in a while one of them would live with us.
One of the objectives I had on this deployment was to learn from the Lord how to live in the world but not be of the world. In particular, how to witness to these men that I lived with about Jesus without trying to jam a Bible down their throats. My routine was relatively simple. I would get up early in the morning before anyone else was awake and say my prayers, study the scriptures and then start my day. I had also determined to do every possible thing I could to serve my fellow soldiers, which meant I did the cooking, cleaned up after them, even if they got sick, and literally served them in any possible way I could.
For a few weeks we had a young British soldier living with us. As opportunities presented themselves I would speak to each of the Canadian soldiers about Jesus and the young British soldier was no exception. Canadian soldiers are known for loving to tease others and sometimes the teasing can get a little on the rough side. Having a British soldier living with us presented lots of opportunities for my fellow Canadian solders to take a shot or two, quite frequently, at the young British soldier. I ran interference between my fellow Canadian soldiers and the young British soldier whenever I could but the long and the short of it is that you have to learn pretty quickly to allow things being said to slide off of you. The British soldier had been told by his superiors that he could return to his British barracks on another base nearby anytime that he wanted, all he had to do was say the word and they would come and pick him up.
He got teased a fair bit but he decided to stay because he told me that he had never met anyone like me. I had spoken to him about the Lord and he saw what I did for my fellow soldiers. We spoke at length on a number of occasions about Christianity. He was a sensitive young man and he was honestly looking for answers he had about God. We developed a real liking for one another and I considered him as a friend and he did likewise.
He had a soft voice and what with the British accent, there were a number of pointed darts thrown in his direction by my fellow Canadian soldiers about how he spoke. It’s strange how human nature, being what it is, has a tendency to throw disparaging comments at those who are different from us. Most times I would just tell him to not take it seriously, that they were just kidding with him and it always appeared to work.
But one morning, the guys had done it again the previous evening and he mentioned it to me and I responded to him without thinking. I mentioned that because of his soft voice and British accent, his voice could sound a little on the feminine side. He never said anything but later when I got back from work to the hut we lived in, he was gone.
He took all that badgering for weeks because of me and in one moment, without thinking about how what I said would affect him, I blew it. I’ll never forget that. I learned a lot while I was in Cyprus, how to accept someone for who they are, how to show you care but in this particular instance, the deciding factor had been my inability to honestly consider how what I said would affect him. I never saw him again and I regret my shortfall to this day.
The words that we speak do matter. People’s feelings are important and they need to be taken into consideration when words come out of our mouths. A lot of times it isn’t only what we say but also how we say it. If you want to see how Jesus did it, look at how He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-42 NIV).
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!