Saturday, October 18, 2008

Key to the Battle

I've been lucky enough never to have to experience war firsthand. Because others sacrificed their lives, I've had the privilege of living in peace. And because our country remains prosperous and vigilant, I've never been called upon to carry the burden of freedom's defense.

But I was ready to enlist today, as the television confronted me with the precious gift that I've received from the brave soldiers who have protected the U.S. throughout our history. Ironically, I turned on the TV to watch football and waste my Saturday away like only spoiled Americans can do. While flipping channels, I came upon a Pearl Harbor documentary and couldn't take my eyes away.

After that was over, a Band of Brothers marathon kept me glued to my couch, its velvet upholstery making me feel like a pansy as the airborne infantry dropped into Normandy to take care of business. I stayed there for the next four hours, switching from football to battlefields with listless clicks of the remote.

I thought about how football - and other sports - are like harmless, silly little parodies of war in a nation so blessed with peace. Strong men fight it out on the battlefield while civilians watch and wave banners, hoping desperately for victory.

This is both sad and wonderful for our generation. It's sad that we're so starved of purpose that we've created and invested so much in these metaphoric battles, but it's amazing that our country is blessed enough that we have time and energy to devote to leisure.

Why do we love war stories enough to create games that mimic them? I think it's because as we follow the characters through their crises, we see how the prospect of death reveals the simplicity of life. Soldiers facing their end value things like milkshakes, as one Pearl Harbor survivor said, or a peaceful plot of land, as a Band of Brothers character put it.

We also see how being embroiled in epic conflicts helps soldiers gain a firm sense of purpose in their roles. Each soldier depends on his group, and each mission is critical to the overall war strategy.

Although our lives aren't filled with mortars and hand grenades, the Christian life seems, at least metaphorically, very similar. We are to live with a singular purpose on one mission for our King, carried out with the help of our brothers in arms. We don't always see the fruits of our missions, but we trust our commander that our effort is a worthy part of a grand victory scheme.

In Band of Brothers, one elite paratrooper becomes petrified with fear as soon as he hits the drop zone. When battle starts to rage, he ducks into a hole, screaming and covering his ears while bullets whiz by. Then he remembers the advice of one of his fellow soldiers: We're all scared, but if you consider yourself already dead, you'll have the strength to fight without the influence of fear.

The key that helped the fearful soldier fight is the key to the battle of our lives. When we turned to Jesus, we counted our old selves dead. We need not fear the fight or the scars we may receive in the battle. The war is won and our fates sealed in him. We are wrapped up in his story. If we follow his objectives, we will receive the glory of the kingdom he is building.

Photo: WWII Memorial in Washington. Copyright Trevor Williams 2007.

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