God and the Foxhole


I’ve heard people say there are no atheists in a foxhole. What I’ve always believed that to mean is that in combat people will inevitably turn to God as a source of comfort. I don’t specifically know about foxholes since I haven’t been in one, but I have spent some time in bunkers and with my face against the rocky sand and prickly scrub waiting for the screeching hum of mortar or missile to pass over.

Never once did I think about God. I’m not an atheist or agnostic, in fact I routinely pray several times a day and get comfort and guidance from it. When under fire though my mind was consumed with noise and adrenaline fueled flight or fright thoughts like where was the noise coming from, how far, estimated direction and should I run in the other direction or hit the dirt.

I came to the conclusion that extreme surges of adrenaline and thoughts of God don’t mix well.

It was only after the crisis passed that I would be flooded with relief and gratitude to God for sparing me. I would look up at the sky, across the mountains or at an expanse of desert, be in wonder and awe of God’s creation and have a moment of joy at being part of it.

1% or less of you reading this are veterans of combat, and are probably wondering what does this have to do with you.

If I drive or bike around 4-6 PM any weekday I see a sea of tense to the point of pain faces and think about the day-to-day pressures Americans, Europeans and people in many countries feel to do more faster, more faster. Work, home, family, email, social media, good nutrition, excercise all compete to the point that people are scheduling down time. Any brief delay in the plan like a traffic jam or a child who won’t get dressed in the morning starts a fear cascade which rises to panic. Load upon load of adrenaline cascades through your bloodstream and saturates the brain all day long.

Most of America professes to be religious.

The difficulty comes in with being trapped in your own private mental foxhole waiting for that screeching hum to recede, but it never does.

Emma Seppala, author of The Happiness Track, did a great deal of research on the power of breathing to help military veterans alleviate stress and calm PTSD. In her book she discusses the physical power of breathing slowly, deeply and consciously even for a few minutes, to help a person jump off  the adrenaline train and learn to be more relaxed.

You can do it anywhere, anytime, even right now. Take a slow, deep, conscious breath. Jump out of your foxhole and see with fresh eyes the wonder of God’s creation.

About Frances Wiedenhoeft

After a lifetime in nursing, anesthesia and the Army I now write, blog, attend school for journalism and massage, and watch my 3 grandchildren. I am a veteran of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan and try to serve other vets such as myself, and to work for peace.
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