I read a book a few weeks back that was an amazing read. The book, Seal of God by Chad Williams Was essentially a 240 page testimony of how this man came to know the Lord as his personal savior. God used some very well-known, Godly Men, to reach and teach Chad including Pastor Greg Laurie and Evangelist Ray Comfort. Although for me, the most brilliant thought didn’t come about from the story of his being saved, but instead from his experience in Navy Seal training.
In the book, Chad gives one of the most detailed experiences of Seal training that I have ever personally read. That’s not saying there isn’t better accounts out there of what it is like to live through the intense training required to become a Navy Seal, this is just the best I’ve read.
I don’t want to take anything away from someone who would like to read this great page turner, but I would like to simply share some things in which I found incredible, but lead me to draw the comparison I’m intending to make in this blog. I’d like to start with the bell.
When would be seals enter training, at some point in their entry they are introduced to the bell. The bell is a large bell set on the training ground where trainees are to endure several weeks and months of abuse (known as Seal Training) in order to weed out the ones that can’t measure up. Notice I did not say, “weed out the weak.” After reading this book I realized that no weak person would even sign up to take this training let alone get the opportunity to suffer the humiliation of ringing the bell.
Basically the bell is one of three ways to get out of seal training. The other two are to die, or get injured to the point they can’t continue training. The bell is used when a trainee has decided they can no longer take another minute of training. The trainee has to walk across what Chad describes as a sandy beach, and up to a building where they ring the bell, and then get a warm shower, something to eat, and some sleep.
After being introduced to the bell the trainees endure, not hours, not days, but weeks of surf tortures (according to Chad recently renamed to something less intimidating), rolling in sand, running more than six miles a day while carrying boats, sleep deprivation, freezing water which pushes their bodies close to the point of hypothermia, humiliation, standard physical fitness at a non-stop pace, and obstacle courses which require climbing up and down ropes and other obstacles with hands and fingers that almost don’t work because of numbness from cold.
Chad tells one story in his book, which I share only to quickly point out the severity of the training. The story is about one of his fellow trainees who lost his grip coming down one of the ropes on the obstacle course falling about 20 feet to the ground. Chad writes, “… [he] went zipping down the rope, screaming all the way. When he struck the ground, I heard the snap of a bone breaking.” He goes on to explain how the man was screaming in agony holding his leg as the instructors screamed at him to “shut up and stop being a sissy.”
Reading this book, it seemed almost unrealistic that they would treat a human being like this over training, but the thing was, this was part of the training. Even in the injury of a person, they used it to train others. Chad explains they wanted him to suffer quietly. In the field on a mission, screaming out in pain because of an injury of any kind could cost the rest of the team their lives. It is the combination of this selfless suffering, and never ringing the bell even in the worst situations that the trainers are looking to find. After a year of training only 13 of the 173 guys who started training together made it the distance. Chad was one of those 13.
Chad explains throughout his book that the one thing that separated him from the rest of the trainees was his unwillingness to quit. He went into this training convinced that he would die before he quit. He had committed himself to whatever treatment would come and he would endure whatever it took because the only thing that could get him out of this training was death. Ringing the bell was never an option.
In addition Chad also expressed two other things he noticed that were common in every soldier that rung the bell. Once they had got the idea in their head that they were going to quit, nothing would stop them. Chad explained that other trainees would try to talk guys out of quiting. They would try to motivate them and coax them along but in the end, any individual who entertained quiting as an option, wound up giving up at some point. In addition, every time one would quit, several others would follow the first man as if there was comfort in numbers, or they were looking for acknowledgement that it was okay to quit. He also writes about how even though he didn’t consider quitting, there was a point in which he had to start looking at only the next step as an accomplishment. He started out convincing himself he only had to go one more mile, or a few more yards, or a couple more hours, and by the end he was talking himself into each step, or group of steps. They had worn him down to having nothing left, but he refused to fail.
When I read through this, while the author makes absolutely no attempt to draw the parallel and probably never intended his writing to do so, I couldn’t help but see the parallel between seal training failure as Chad described it, and marriage failure in our current culture. Not that marriage is anything as painful and physically or mentally challenging as seal training, but that the parties involved either have a mindset to finish at any cost, or leave themselves an out.
Marriage failure rates are nearing, or perhaps now surpassing 50% even among Christians in American culture. This is a sign that we, as a culture, do not commit. Marriage isn’t always easy, and it can even be extremely hard. The level of that difficulty cannot be measured against someone else’s marriage, but only against what you are willing to endure. When you look at the warm, dry room of something outside your marriage, you may be tempted to ring the bell.
God intended marriage to be between one man, and one woman, and for it to be forever. There is no bell in marriage and there is only two reasons that you should ever be separated from your spouse: Death and infidelity (and even infidelity is a questionable reason). In the words of Jesus Christ himself, in Mathew 19:3-8 it is written:
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
When we leave our spouses, we teach our children, that it is acceptable to give up rather than try harder if you’re uncomfortable. We influence those around us who are also struggling in their marriage to also give up. We fail to testify our faith and obedience to Christ when we walk away from our marriages and families in hopes of greener pastures.
In Seal of God Chad shares stories, though only briefly, that he has heard, about the men who ring that bell. Those stories include serious bouts of depression, some never able to recover, and some consequences as high as suicide because of giving up and ringing the bell. I don’t think the marriage is any less important, even though our culture has made it seem like nothing more than a legal contract. Ringing the bell on your marriage, your children, and your promise to God is a really big deal.
The question is, will you ring the bell, or will you go into your marriage committed that nothing can take you out of it except death?
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