. .while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us? Luke 24: 30-33
To see and to surrender. Isn’t that the point of any journey, whether we are exploring new lands, new beginnings or new landscapes of the soul? Seeing and surrendering are probably the first steps to belonging and feeling at home.
That seemed to be the message of retired Admiral Bob Kihune who spoke to the Hogan Entrepreneurs recently about how important it was to figure out where –and how—you belong. Looking back on a distinguished career in the Navy, the man who once commanded the battleships Missouri and Kitty Hawk and who oversaw a budget of $20 billion when he was at the Pentagon, described his teenage years as a “juvenile delinquent.” Taken out of public school and placed at Kamehameha, he hated wearing the military uniform that attendance at that school then required. But despite his chafing at that daily discipline, he excelled academically. Still, a career in the armed forces was the last thing he had in mind for himself. He was all set to go to Northwestern University and pursue an engineering degree but just before he set off on that journey, he was told that the Navy had accepted the application he had sent in at the urging of a mentor and he was asked to report for duty. His “surrender” to that call shaped the rest of his professional life—and his sense of belonging.
Finding himself rising in the ranks, he instinctively felt called to address discrimination wherever he found it. “I wasn’t an activist,” he said, even as he described how, on his watch, he made sure that the duties on board ship were distributed more equitably. “Food service, for example, wasn’t assigned to just Asians and African Americans.” He found himself early on commanding a team composed largely of men who had run afoul of the law and who had been given the choice of going to jail or joining the Navy. “I felt it was my responsibility to not fail them as a leader. If they failed, I felt I had to look inwards and first ask myself whether I had done enough to position them to succeed.”
Admiral Kihune’s story was a story of taking what life brought his way and fashioning a career that helped him discover what he was made of and who he was. Half Native Hawaiian, half-Japanese, he found himself being defined in terms of the negative stereotypes that framed how both communities were viewed when he was growing up. He did not fight that. He simply surrendered to the possibilities life offered with an energy that helped him plumb the depths of his talents and see and understand the complexity of his heritage. As a young man embarking on adulthood, he had no way of knowing that a 35 year career in the Navy lay ahead of him. But surrendering to the invitation to join the Navy opened the door to a life that allowed him to make significant contributions as a leader.
Admiral Kihune’s story resonates in this post-Easter season. As we join the disciples, bewildered and bereft, on their journey to Emmaus, we need to remember that the point of that journey is not that they encountered ghostly apparitions. The real message is that on their journey as followers of Christ, they saw and they surrendered to His light. The light that invites us each day to take difficult, sometimes scary, steps into unknown territory, knowing we are not fully ready but feeling called nonetheless to something bigger than ourselves.
Bishop Larry Silva asks the very important question: “Are we on the way to Emmaus or on the way back?” Do we think of Christ simply as “simply a wise teacher who lived in the past and who left us a legacy of love and compassion?”Or are we able to see Christ in those who journey with us and are thus able, in Bishop Silva’s words, to “proclaim the dignity of life and of every human person in…our homes, our places of work, our schools and our civil society.” Having faith in something larger than ourselves is a kind of surrender. It is also the sweetest kind of triumph.