Short-Timer

This is not your best life.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

In the military, there is a term; short-timers attitude; it merely describes a soldier that is nearing the end of their tour with just weeks or months left before a transfer. One particular tour of mine that I felt the full effects of this label was while stationed on the United States Coast Guard Cutter Sweetbrier in Cordova, Alaska. Even the best of writers would be hard-pressed to romanticize my tour there, scrubbing barnacles off of buoys in the Bearing Sea 12 plus hours each day for a year. Yet, I will never forget what I heard over the ship’s intercom system that day, “Seaman McCracken, please report to the Yeoman’s office,” for the only reason that announcement would come was that the command had approved my transfer request to Radioman school. Leaving the Yeoman’s office with my orders in hand, I ran, literally ran, back to my bunk, drew the curtain, opened the envelope, and read-word for word-my orders. I was to report to Training Center Petaluma California for Radioman School in 30 days. Once word got around, I only had 30 days left; my shipmates labeled me Seaman McCracken the short-timer.

Still, that label didn’t mean anything to me until one event, and from that moment on, I got it. It came around 0300 (that’s 3 AM!) when I was jolted out of a dream by the ship’s general quarters alarm system, a shriek that resonated through the ship like a screaming banshee before a death. Not too far off as our ship had taken such a severe roll in a storm that the next announcement was “prepare to abandon ship.” I made my way up the ladder to the Muster Deck and past open lockers exploding their contents on the ground. By the time the ship’s crew were mustered on the deck with our life jackets and we unsecured all the small boats, the danger had passed, and the Captain dismissed us. On the way back to my rack, I remember vividly announcing to myself with a voice that purposefully carried to anyone listening, “I only have three more weeks of this!” and at that very moment, I realized I was a short-timer!

From that moment on, nothing bothered me like it used to; being woken up in the middle of the night to cover a shipmate’s bridge watch because he was sick, no problem-only three weeks to go, cleaning up someone else’s vomit in the paint room because I was the lowest ranking sailor on deck, no problem-only two weeks to go, boarding a Japanese vessel in the dark of night, rounding every corner wondering if it were my last, no problem-only one week to go, being dropped off by helicopter to an isolated island lighthouse for solar conversion, even though I am scared of heights, no problem-I am leaving for sunny California tomorrow! Then, it all came to a head when the Chief Boatswain’s Mate put me on the cleaning crew to remove the rust from the ship’s hull while in dry dock in Oregon with a needle gun the following week. No problem, “Hey Chief, not me; I am flying out to California tomorrow morning!” I was able to put up with almost anything knowing that my days were numbered and that I had a much better destination in my future. That is what being a short-timer is all about.

Folks, I know this world is getting worse. Every morning we hear about how COVID cases are rising, of another political scandal, violent protests in our streets, racism, murders, sex-trafficking, and much more. We have to say goodbye to friends and family that have lost their fight with cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Our bodies are marked with pain, our minds are filled with anxiety, doubt, and fear, and our spirits are troubled, causing our eyes to shed more tears than we ever anticipated. However, let me remind you, Christian, you are a short-timer. Your days on this earth are numbered by God (Hebrews 9:27) and are promised to be short-lived as a vapor (James 4:14). Christian, this is not your home; you are a stranger, a pilgrim, a tourist! Therefore, don’t let this world get you down, hinder your walk, impact your faith, or impede your purpose. And, not only are you closer to home each day, but you have received orders to a place even better than sunny California; you’re bound for Heaven! So today, as you navigate this sinful world, do so with confidence and joy, knowing you’re a short-timer with a heavenly destination.

Scripture: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:11-12, ESV)

Question: Am I getting discouraged over the things in this world because I have forgotten my true home?

Prayer: Father, my heart needs to be encouraged. This world is getting to me, I have lost my joy, and I am struggling with all that is going on. Please help me remember that this world is not my home, that this life is not as good as it gets. Father, I ask for you to give me the strength and faith to have a short-timer’s attitude so that I can be that patient and long-suffering giver of grace that this sinful world needs in times like these. Thank you for the gift of tomorrow, and may I live today in light of that very gift. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.