Ben Protzman’s story embodies a crucial lesson for all Christians: we must never give up.
Ben used to suffer from asthma. Used to. For the last several years, though, he hasn’t experienced the tight-lunged, oxygen-choking condition at all. He runs competitively for his high school track and cross-country teams. While attending Summit in Manitou Springs last summer, he arose each morning and ran at the beautiful Garden of the Gods park — at more than a mile elevation — with nary a problem.
But the pulmonary disorder made an untimely comeback a few months ago — even if only on paper — and almost wrecked his dream of attending the Air Force Academy. Almost.
After returning from Summit and receiving some gentle prodding from family and church mentors, Ben decided to apply for the Academy. He recalled a talk Dr. Jeff Myers gave on calling: “He said God has a design for us. We shouldn’t be hesitant in pursuing that design. God doesn’t steer immobile objects.”
So, prayerfully, Ben worked on his application, which included securing Congressional nominations. Ben applied with his U.S. representative and both U.S. senators. That in itself required several essays and long interviews with each Congressman’s staff. “Having one or two isn’t bad,” Ben said, “but doing several is tedious.” A few weeks later he learned he’d received two Congressional nominations.
Ben submitted his application, but officials quickly flagged it. Apparently his medical records never reflected the fact that he had grown out of his childhood asthma, a common occurrence. Before he could gather materials needed to secure a medical waiver (like testimonials from his cross country coach and teammates), the Academy closed his application. His dream was seemingly over. “That was probably my lowest point throughout the application process,” Ben said. Dogged by the longing not to disappoint his parents, he initially hid the medical disqualification. But again he recalled Myers’ talk: “God doesn’t steer immobile objects.” Ben called the Academy, desperate for any way to prove his lungs were okay. There was one shot, an Academy specialist told him: he could take an intensive lung function test. Ben would be sealed in an airtight chamber and subjected to several rounds of testing, including five doses of a drug specifically designed to cause an asthmatic reaction. If his lungs constricted too much, his dream would be officially dead.
Ben told his parents, and off they went to take the test. Amazingly — but not surprisingly — Ben passed the lung function test. Now his application to the Academy was open again. And the waiting continued. A week later: the Academy granted Ben a medical waiver, but still no word on his acceptance as a cadet.
Then on March 18, nearly a month later, Ben came home from school and opened his e-mail. He had a message from the Air Force. Sitting before his computer keyboard, wondering what the message said, he closed his eyes, bowed his head, and prayed: “God, may your will be done.”
The dream Ben had been nursing thanks to encouragement from his parents and closest mentors was going to come true. Through the highs and lows of the months-long ordeal, even at his worst, Ben persisted with the knowledge that God was in control.
“What the world says and what my surroundings look like aren’t what define the situation,” Ben said. “God defines the situation. If you’re doing God’s will, there’s no need to be worried.”