He’s packing up his truck, fitting sheets and pans and years of memories all in the back. His combat boots sit next to the Winnie the Pooh he got as a toddler but only one is going to make the cut. It’s 3400 miles to Alabama and there’s only so many things a man can bring when he’s starting a new chapter. So my toddler gets the job of watching over Pooh until he’s back at Christmas.
I’m fighting the tears but it’s a losing battle and he sweetly envelopes me in a hug. Tears make me uncomfortable, but sometimes the fullness of a heart can’t be contained and it leaks out the eyes and I have to be okay with it.
Wasn’t it just yesterday my parents were telling me the sister I thought I was getting was actually going to be Brother #3? And wasn’t he just standing outside on the stoop with Brother #2, dressed up in earrings and my dresses, playing along with his big sister’s vain attempts to make do with the gaggle of brothers she’d been given?
Suddenly he’s graduating college and I’m watching him take an oath to protect the Constitution and this country with his life. He’s no longer that rolly polly little kid that toddled around behind us, he’s a second Lieutenant in the Army and it’s hard for me to picture men twice his age saluting him.
He’s all kinds of excited to start flying helicopters, and I’m thrilled to see his dreams taking form. But he’ll also learn what to do if he’s captured, tortured, or shot down and I’m tearing up at the thought of what that looks like. I ask him what’s heavy on my heart, “Are you afraid to go to war?”
And this boy-man, who is no longer a boy, looks me straight in the eye and says, “You don’t sign up if you’re not willing to go to war.”
Those words hang with me as I’m washing dishes and loading laundry and doing the very safe, the very ordinary. I’m tempted to think that my life is too mundane, that perhaps I’m not risking enough when there are people, families, who give up so much so I can keep doing the mundane.
But that’s the danger, thinking that life is safe and forgetting that a battle rages around me, around all of us, daily.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Those of us marked by the Cross are marked with a target. In some places, that means a life on the run as evil manifests in the flesh and comes with harrowing vengeance to destroy anything that hints of the Messiah.
But if I think that only those in oppressive government states are facing a battle then I’m already half-way to defeat. There’s all kinds of schemes and plots from the enemy camps to take my focus off Jesus and onto my circumstances, to lull me into complacency by convincing me that there is no real danger, no desperation to my day-to-day existence.
We’re all slogging it out, fighting to see the eternal in the ordinary. But can there be really anything such as “ordinary” when you know there’s just a thin veil separating your every day and the throne room of Heaven? When every person around you is a soul waiting to be snatched from darkness into light, to be awakened to its purpose?
“You don’t sign up if you’re not willing to go to war.” It’s a war against the evil hiding in the dark places, waiting for a chance to tear us each apart. If we will only have eyes to see and hearts to hear, we’ll realize that the battle rages fierce.
If we’re going to be Jesus imitators, Cross-bearer then the question looms large:
Are we willing to go to war?
Not the kind of war that consists of guns and grenades, or even of political plays and verbal shake-downs. Ours is a war against the evil lurking in the shadows, prowling in expectation for the chance to tear us apart. Our weapon is a bended knee and a refusal to let ourselves be lulled to sleep by the world. Will we fight the darkness in our corner of the world, whatever that may look like?
If you’re not willing to do that kind of battle, then why sign up?