So I thought it might be helpful to back up and tell the story of how I found myself entering the military at the young age of 36. The short answer is it was the call of God ... literally.
I was serving as campus minister at Judson College and feeling that God was about to move me from that place. I had no idea what was next. (Sometimes we think we may have an inkling, but I had none.) So I did it. I don't know what possessed me to. It was ludicrous ... reckless ... down right insane some might say. I gave God control. I know! I know! It was a moment of blind faith. I actually prayed for whatever God's will was ... and meant it.
I told God whatever He had next for me, I was open to it (and here's the REALLY dangerously crazy part of the prayer...) EVEN if it was something I'd never thought of before, something totally off my radar. I told God I wanted Him to open the doors He wanted to open and close the ones He wanted to close. He was calling the shots.
Be careful what you pray for.
Soon after, my phone rang. It was a Chaplain recruiter from the US Army Reserves (see photo below). Seems he'd seen my resume posted on a ministry website and thought I'd make a great Chaplain. Now, I'd love to say I dropped to my knees and thanked the Lord for answering my prayer, but I didn't. I carried on a polite conversation with the recruiter, but internally I was saying, "Yeah right. I'm not joining the military!"
Tap, tap, tap.
"What was that? Who's there?" I looked around, didn't see anyone, but I knew someone was trying to get my attention.
"Ahem. Meredith. It's Me."
(Isn't it strange that you can actually HEAR the capital M in the way He says "Me"?)
In an instant I heard the voice of my very patient Savior reminding me of the prayer I had prayed. Seems He was taking me up on my offer. So after a few weeks of careful, persistent, and somewhat pleading prayer, God confirmed "the call" came from Him. He was calling me to the Army Chaplaincy. But it should have come as no surprise that the One who created me knows me better than I know myself. Turns out it was a perfect fit for me and my passions and gifts. (Side note: though it was a Reserves recruiter that called, the National Guard proved to be the best fit for me.)
Normally this is the place where people say, "And the rest is history ...", but this was just the beginning. The next 14 months would be an uphill battle to convince myself, my recruiter, an endorsing agency, MEPS (the medical team that had to approve me physically), and the National Guard Bureau that I could do this. I think convincing myself was the greatest fight.
No one made it easy.
No one did it for me.
But I never had to convince God. It was His idea, and the call was clear. I have a rule in life: as long as I know it is God's call, I will do it ... whatever it is ... whatever it takes. This is why I take great pains in clarifying whether the call is of God. But once that is settled ... watch out. Nothing is going to keep me from it. Gotta lose weight? I'll do it. Gotta become a runner? I'll do it. Gotta get rid of a kidney stone? I'll do it. My mom says this is where my stubbornness works in my favor. (Thanks mom.) But more than that, I know what carries us through is a very strong God who thankfully equips us to do everything He calls us to. (To call us without equipping us would just be mean, and God does NOT set us up to fail.)
So despite great opposition (both internal and external), on July 17th, 2008 I was commissioned into the United States Army and the Alabama National Guard as 2nd Lieutenant Meredith Davenport, Chaplain Candidate.
Here we go ...
Special thanks to this man, Chaplain (COL-Retired) Paul Howe, who made the initial call to recruit me. Until recently, I had never met him in person, only spoken to him on the phone. He came to a conference I recently attended and I was able to share with him and thank him for allowing God to use him in my life. Interesting side note: There were 2 other people just in my platoon at CH-BOLC who are chaplains because of Paul Howe. I made sure he knew he was making an impact in more ways than he probably even knew.