Heartfelt Mission To God Reflected In Life
April 9, 2010
- I want to be a committed Christian. I want people to know I am a committed Christian. But I also want to be a professional Marine."
- He worried that every deployment would take him further from his family, but "deciding to stay in was a blessing in disguise."
- "The question is: How do you come to your unit, your office, your organization, wherever you work and be a Christian, but not be offensive'"
- He decided earily on that "I will follow a moral and ethical code that is consistent with those priorities and with my walk with God."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Being a Marine and living a godly life were two goals that affected retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson's entire outlook on life.
And both came from the heart.
"Being a Christian is at the heart and soul of who I am. That defines me," Robeson said. "I came from a Christian home. I have Christian parents. I also had a mythical perspective that every red-blooded male should serve their country ... I want to be a committed Christian. I want people to know I am a committed Christian. But I also want to be a professional Marine."
To some, those two perspectives - following the Christian beliefs of love, peace and forgiveness, and joining the military to fight for your country - may not jive. Add to that mix a Mennonite wife whose religion is pacifist in nature, and Robeson may seem like a conflicted soul.
But, for this Marine, it was the scriptures and a lot of prayer that showed a life path that included the military and God in the same footsteps. Through the years, he and his family found blessings in each of those footsteps.
"I was planning on three years and then getting out," Robeson said, speaking to about 100 members of the local chapter of Young Business Leaders, a national men's Christian group, during Thursday's breakfast meeting at the Huntsville Marriott. "Twenty-five moves and 34 years later, I finally made the decision to get out."
Robeson retired from a decorated Marine career about two months ago.
But, as with any young man searching for his life's purpose, those early years were filled with struggle as Robeson worked to be the best husband, father and Marine he could be. At times, it was tough to bring those roles together.
"I was worried that with every decision to stay there would be more deployment time, separation time and moves that would not be healthy for my relationship with my wife and our four children," Robeson said of his career choice. "Deciding to stay in was a blessing in disguise. Because we moved so much, my children never had best friends where we lived. But they became each other's best friends. We've lived in places and been a part of churches in places where I never thought we would be."
Robeson was commissioned into the Marines in 1975. His combat experience includes service in Liberia, Desert Storm, Somalia, Horn of Africa, Southern Philippines, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has commanded the 8th Marine Regiment and the 2nd Marine Division. He has been a commanding general of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, 3rd and 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigades, and 3rd Marine Division. He has also served as deputy commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, director of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, and commander of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.
During his career, Robeson often relied on the advice of his older brother, Ed, who was six years ahead in his Marine Corps career. His brother shared the same experiences morally, ethically and culturally, and was a big help to Robeson as he worked to keep his faith while facing the challenges of being a Marine.
"Ed's challenge to me was wherever God takes you and whatever He challenges you to do you need to see that as your mission," Robeson said. "Every Christian is a full-time Christian in service. The question is: How do you come to your unit, your office, your organization, wherever you work and be a Christian, but not be offensive' ... How do you gain respect'"
Robeson said he has three priorities in his life - God, family and his country.
He decided early on that "my decision-making will reflect those priorities. I will follow a moral and ethical code that is consistent with those priorities and with my walk with God."
In counseling young Marines, Robeson said he told them that, whether a Christian or not, what they do reflects on both them and the Marines. In one area, marital fidelity, Robeson strongly counseled Marines that how they treat their marriage also represents how they treat the Marines and other people.
"It's not just a question of infidelity. But also about loyalty and trust," he said. "It is also a character evaluation for every man. As a family, my wife and my children are my number one mission on this Earth."
Robeson said there were times during his Marine career when he considered serving as a chaplain.
"But as an active duty Marine commanding general, I have an opportunity to witness that a chaplain will never have," he said.
"There are three types of Marines that are Christians. There is the closet Christian who loves the Lord but, to be candid with you, nobody knows it. There is the Christian who is committed to the Lord and quick to tell you about it. This Christian is very evangelical and vocal, but Marines won't follow him across the street. He is not seen as a leader."
And then there are the men and women Marines who "are deeply committed to the Lord but the reason for getting a paycheck is to do the job at their very best every day and every week, and let the Lord sort out the rest," Robeson said.
Robeson didn't evangelize or hide his Christianity during his career. He witnessed in ways that were not blatant, such as sharing his faith in an annual commander's Christmas letter or counseling Marines when they came to him with their problems.
No matter what type of career, there comes a point where Christians have to make choices between their job and family, and when disappointments will make them question their Christian path.
Often, what seems like a disappointment can really be God's way of redirecting a Christian's path. In one particular career move, Robeson and his family took a turn not expected and ended up at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. It turned out to be one of the best family and spiritual environments they ever experienced.
"I really believe that if your principles are set by the priorities in your life, you are going to say 'no' to things in life that may really be a lucrative opportunity but not the right opportunity for your relationship with your spouse or children," he said.
A Christian's faith shows in the way they relate to others.
"It's your character that will carry you where you go the rest of your life," Robeson said. "It's not accolades. It's not what you do. It's who you are in your heart. Your values, morals and ethics are an extension of your personal relationship with Christ.
"I didn't spend a lot of time talking about the Lord day in and day out. But I tried to live a life that was in sync with what I believed ... I wanted to live the life Christ laid down for me and be a good example. Following Jesus Christ is the most important decision you make in your entire life and it shapes everything you do."