“I had no plans that didn’t involve retiring after at least 20 years. I had no fallback.” That was his response when LTC Jim Harbridge, USA (Ret.), missed a promotion despite good reports on his performance.
Harbridge said he placed his identity in career success as a young major. After graduating from the Command and General Staff College, he found himself serving as both an infantry S3 and XO at the same time during his two-year Key and Developmental (KD) course. While challenging and rewarding, he found himself very internally focused.
After leaving that two-year program, he headed up a new organization, where, for the first few months, he was the only field grade officer. “I got to be king of the castle, which was great, but it was also very ego-building,” Harbridge said. “I was very internally focused… the Army was my idol. My identity came to be what I was doing in my career.”
Christ re-centered his life “traumatically,” to use Harbridge’s word.
“I went to this job that generally indicates that you’re on the road, you’ve been successful in the first two or three years, and you’re on the road,” Harbridge said. “But I was not selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel on time.”
Missing the promotion to lieutenant colonel led to a few weeks of crisis in Harbridge’s life.
“I didn’t sleep at night,” Harbridge said. “I was a history major in college, then an infantry officer. My whole plan was to stay in the Army as long as I could.”
However, at around 3:35 one morning, Harbridge’s life turned around once more. “It’s the only time God has ever spoken directly to me, He said ‘it is enough.’ That’s a pretty clear message. I wish He spoke that clearly a lot.”
That moment released the anxiety and stress in Harbridge and helped him realize what his identity was, and why the Army wasn’t necessarily what God wanted, although it was what Harbridge wanted.
“We probably give ourselves more credit for having our identity in Christ than we really have,” CH(COL) Marc Gauthier, USA (Ret.) says. “I almost look at it as if you look at a pie chart. And most Christ followers have some slice of the pie, hopefully a large slice, based on their identity in Christ. And it’s very likely there are other slices that are there. And the danger is when those other slices continue to increase in size. So I think sometimes God takes us through stages, or seasons of life, where he shows us where our identity really is. And that kind of blows us away.”