“When everything goes against you till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe knew the rigors of combat. Her war was lifelong and her battles waged in a furor of controversy, criticism and ostracism. Some say that it was her writings that sparked the Civil War. She did all this while married, keeping a home and raising seven children, a life dedicated to “the good”. Her training and ideas came from a seminary education and preacher father. Her work was a living example of the charge and responsibility given to anyone who calls themselves “believer”.
Somehow, in our society of extraordinary comfort, we have come to embrace the idea that faith is a trip to church on Sunday followed by brunch and writing generous checks. When we view the lesson of Harriet Beecher Stowe we must admit that nothing could be further from the truth. As a believer we need to face the reality that “combat” is the norm, it’s a responsibility of being in the fold. “What we are trying to do is realize that, while we are on earth, faith places us in the heat of battle, a permanent struggle, a constant choice between Jesus Christ and that which in the world remains hostile to God.... On the earth, the Church is made for fighting; by vocation.” (Madeleine Delbrél †1964 French laywoman and mystic.) If we are who we say we are, as believers, this reality should be part and parcel of our everyday thinking and living. So, does this idea scare you, annoy you, and seem silly, what?
Much has been written about those “seekers” who are diligently searching for the meaning of life; Why are we here? The answer is much less complicated than the philosophers would have us believe. We are the warriors, the ones who stand for the Lord in a visible way, the ones who are aware of and willing to engage in “combat”. The Stowe quote at the beginning of this writing is a perfect description of just that. It shows that as a warrior we always need to keep our eye on the dimension that we can’t see and understand that there are forces “out there” that are in constant motion even if we can’t perceive them. Stowe’s quote describes the faith that God’s action is never late because his timing is always perfect. She was the ultimate warrior. “The Church’s combat will never cease to be bloody: the frontiers she defends will never cease being attacked and the liberation she fights for is always violent. A realistic love for the Church necessarily entails taking your blows and living with bruises” .(Op. Cite. Delbrêl) So, if you are who you say you are, believer, combat is not an opt out. This is not as fatal as it might seem at first blush. The keen awareness that we are warriors at combat actually puts us in the position to do the work of the Lord with full awareness and our eyes wide open. As Delbrél puts it we are constantly being challenged by the opposing forces and knowledge of that makes us even more stealthy and efficient for the sake of the Lord. In a very real way it makes each day even more of an adventure. Do you recognize the battle each time you are tempted to say or think something mean? Do you recognize the battle every time someone asks you for help and you are “too busy”? Do you recognize the battle every time you are tempted to judge yourself and/or others? Do you recognize the battle every time you think it’s more important to entertain yourself rather than spend time praying? Do you recognize the battle every time you pass a homeless person and think they should “get a job”?
“Where God is at work, the devil is not idle. When you try over a period to correct yourself on a particular point, do not be surprised if you have to submit to violent temptations on that very point, even to repeated falls. The important thing is never to admit that you are beaten. Fight and never give in, like a good general. … We will always emerge from the battle stronger.” (Dom Augustin Guillerand, O.Cart † 1945, French Monk and revered spiritual author.) The bad news is that combat begins “at home” and the good news is that in that “training” we become powerful warriors for the Lord.
In many ways, the season of Lent is meant to give strength and renewal to our warrior nature. We spend time being more aware of God in our lives, praying more, being more mindful and working on our “heart”. These are all skills that heighten our abilities to be in combat for the Lord the rest of the year. We are the “boots on the ground” quite literally. Recognize your job as a combat soldier with great joy. It is a highly favored place and a spot chosen for you by God himself. During a lifetime, no one else treds on the same exact battle grounds that you do. Each life full of circumstances is different from every other life. Become keenly aware of your role for the Lord, in this world that opposes everything about Him and go forward into that combat. Join the ranks of Stowe, Joan of Arc, Kolbe, Katharine Drexel and so many others. The tools are already in your possession, the Father has your back!
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Sample more of Kathryn’s thinking at www.atravelersview.org
Copyright©Lent 2010, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All rights reserved.
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