Good Little Soldiers

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.  ~ Brennan Manning

As the daughter of an ex-Marine and School Superintendent, I learned the life of perfected performance at an early age. I got good grades, I was always polite and I knew how to conduct myself in every social situation. I knew that, as the Superintendent’s daughter, my behavior reflected on my Dad.

A year or so before he died, Dad apologized for being so tough on my sister and me, saying: I didn’t know anything about being a father, I just wanted to raise good little soldiers. I think I always understood that on some level. He was a good father and I never doubted his love. His approval, however, was conditional and continued to be a major behavior modifier for me, from childhood into my adult life.

In time, I transferred a significant portion of that same perfected behavior and desire for approval from my earthly father to my heavenly One. I did good deeds, I was always polite and I knew how to conduct myself in every religious situation.

I thought I could fulfill my responsibility to community and to God by continuing to be a good little soldier. I concealed my wounds out of fear and shame. As Brennan says, in doing that, not only could my inner darkness not be illuminated (even to myself) but I was a very weak light for others.

Those that God has used most profoundly in my life, haven’t been the perfect Christian soldiers. They’ve been the ones who’ve crawled to the stream, so thirsty that they shamelessly gulped water with trembling hands. They are the broken healers who share their struggles; who’ve found grace and who grant grace as a healing gift. I pray to be more and more like them.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

27 thoughts on “Good Little Soldiers”

  1. I heard Brennan Manning speak about 25 years ago, at a Youth Specialties Convention. I had no idea who he was before that, but his insight set me on my heels and made so much sense. Then I read his book, “The Lion and the Lamb, the Relentless Tenderness of Jesus”. Our world is sorely in need of authentic lives and voices, people willing to become real.

    1. Paulann – Have you read The Ragamuffin Gospel? It’s Brennan 101. Rich Mullins came up with the name of his band after reading it (I think I have that right). Very grace filled and very authentic.
      Merton, Nouwen, Manning and Lewis help me keep it real in my own heart.
      My kids both heard Brennan speak when they were in college.They’d already read some of his books. They said he was different than they’d expected, but in a really good way. 😀
      ~ Debbie

      1. I have read the Ragamuffin Gospel. After hearing Manning speak, I read every thing I could get my hands on. His words embraced, rather than judged. It was so refreshing. I think I may have a cassette recording of the speech I heard. I’m on a search to retrieve it and listen again, and remember our call to be gracious to one another.

        Your list of “thinkers” definitely push us toward self awareness and authenticity. I frequently find those truths in children’s books, too. Have you read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane? The author is Kate DiCamillo. There is a nice website at

        Thanks again for the reminder of Brennan Manning. Paulann

    2. Paulann – What a grand suggestion. Although it sounds very familiar, I just went to the link and I don’t believe I have read it, but I will! Thank you! How fun! 😀

  2. Oh, WOW–it’s amazing that I should read this today. I so agree that if we don’t show ourselves “authentic”, we won’t be “translucent”–allowing the Light of His grace and unfailing love to shine through for others. Joyce Meyer is one of my fave Bible teachers for this very reason. Thanks much! God bless you richly.

    1. Ann – Thank for sharing a few moments here with me. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts, should you care to share them at some point.
      ~ Debbie

  3. This post is wonderful. I think that in revealing our past we help others to understand us better. By the way, you were never a “weak light” to me. Your story reminds me of my own. A month before my dad died he said to me “I made a lot of mistakes”. We were talking about our lives while I was growing up and I knew what he was talking about. God bless you and keep you Debbie. Love you, Sue

    1. Dear Sue – I love you, too, and you are one bright light!
      I think about the similarities between our Dads whenever you write about yours. We were both blessed with Dads that loved us and truly tried to ‘do it right’ and could admit that they weren’t always…
      ~ Debbie

  4. This is beyond profound, Debbie! Got to get you into print.

    I’ve always been a bit too glib with my faults, but I would rather people know my heart than to think I’m without faults. Got faults aplenty. God’s grace never gives up!

    We are comforted by those who’ve been comforted in the same battle grounds.

    1. Heidi – Yes, dear friend, I well remember the “Hello, I’m Heidi and these are my sins” days! LOL! I always wanted to protect you, but you’ve been such a good example to me to not ‘conceal my wounds out of fear or shame’. You’re my role model!
      ~ Debbie

  5. Debbie, this is so good! Thank you for encouraging us to not hide our pasts, but bring them into His Light, so He can use it to help others. A friend of mine would feel so bad when she cried at church. I told her that when I saw someone crying at church it always moved me to tears too, knowing that God was there and at work.
    God bless you, dear Debbie, with grace to live and to give!
    love from the other deb

    1. Dear Deb – I’ve never understood apologizing for tears. They always seem like a gift to me. How kind of you to give your friend permission to be truly real with you and with God.
      Love to you, too –

  6. I love it! LOVE IT! I understand the “good soldier” path. You did it perfectly. It was wonderful your dad “admitted” (for a better way of phrasing his last words) that he believed in raising good soldiers (rather than children), who did things right and got good grades vs. being warm and fuzzy. Can’t see it in an ex-Marine anyway ;-).

    I thank you too, for continuing to encourage the Soldiers who don’t “suck it up” too well, but rather “spew it out” way too easily. I long to hear your story. I get a lot out of the tidbits you have shared with me.

    Those tidbits go a long way in letting many of us never-been-marines, know we are not alone, and the bonus is, you get to tell what you really want to. You are still and always will be a good Soldier even if you tell us new things about you. I admire vulnerability, I admire YOU, and i thank God for you and this great post. xoxo melis

    1. dearest melis – your are unfailingly kind and too generous in your estimation of me. Being a good little soldier is a type of addiction – difficult to break – as all addictions are. Thank you for valuing the vulnerable, not just the victorious!
      ~ Debbie

  7. What a marvelous post! and great memories of a father who admitted he did not know how to be a father but did his best in the only way he knew how…to make good little soldiers.

    I always said to my children: “I have never been a mom of a ……(substitute age and sex) before, so help me understand what I need to do.” We learned and grew together. I wish I could have been a better mom.

    Thank you for this post.

    1. Linda – Me, too. I desperately wanted to be everything my kids needed and it broke my heart when I failed them. They’ve always been generous with me in spite of my inadequacies.
      My Dad was of a generation that was much less relational – particularly the men. I admired him for accepting responsibility without excuse,
      ~ Debbie

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