Reconnecting with Sargent Carter

We all have stories that we tell ourselves. Everyone talks about the idea.

On a Sunday a few weeks back, our prayer was about the middle school insecurities we carry for a long time. After I wrote it, but before she read it, Nancy and I were talking a little about the challenge of forgiving the people that told us those stories. I told her about the guys in junior high, a year ahead of me, who called me “Sargent Carter” as I walked down the hall before school.

It’s a reference to a character in “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” He had a crew cut, I had a crew cut. It was long after (and long before) they were cool. He was, in my mind, heavy. I was, in my mind, unathletic and heavy. They were cool, I was not. And so I’ve heard those voices for nearly fifty years.

Those words were part of my push to have my dad stop cutting my hair. They have shaped my picture of my body since then.

I usually forget that I regularly run three miles, that I once lost 50 pounds (and found some of them again).

On Saturday night we talked, on Sunday I asked God to “Help us, bit by bit, to see You more than our failure in our minds all the time. And to live as ones who are loved.”

On Monday, at the hospital, deep in a different story, I was sitting with a couple who were flipping through the TV channels. Suddenly, above my head, floated Sargent Carter. Crew cut was there, of course, but he was a Marine. What I’ve carried as “heavy” was much closer to strong. We share a round face. But these days, I’d be happy to be compared to a Marine – like my friend Will.

I’m grateful for a timely and unexpected answer to my request.

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