Wartime Reflections: No Surrender in the Heart of a Warrior
I hope to never mistake one of our soldiers for a choir boy.
I want our fighting men to be a brash, rough-and-tumble bunch. Since it all started, militaries sought to foment the fighting spirit in its warriors. Over the centuries, we’ve honed the craft in extracting the exact measure of refined aggression from our young men.
We build them into hyper-actualized images of themselves. How else would one storm an enemy foxhole under withering fire or pull a wounded comrade to safety? These traits we harness find a home on the battlefield.
Yet, as we inevitably come face-to-face with the Almighty, we quickly find ourselves at odds with many of these same traits.
We’ll start with the easiest first.
A Slave of Time
I am dominated by time and an awareness of time.
I was raised to be punctual, attended military college where punctuality was demanded, and for nearly two decades, have served in the most time centric organization in the history of the universe. Our entire existence revolves around time and timeliness.
As I am soon to be retired, I’ve little left to do but out-process and attend some appointments. My time has come back into my control. And what do I do? I’ve made a calendar and scheduled my time, all of it. I’ve even induced stress upon myself in attempting to meet the requirements that I have scheduled…for myself!
God calls us to rest, in Him.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a)
God calls us to be still before the presence of God. The busyness of military life can cloud our minds and spirits whereby we lose sight of why we were doing things in the first place. We become slaves to the calendar, to the ticking hands of the nearest clock. The pace and demands of military life rarely afford a man the opportunity to merely rest in Him.
In a time of distress, I rely upon myself and my teammates. The Army is in the business of shaping events, molding outcomes, bending the will of men. Amid chaos, I am taught to establish and apply order, as I deliver disorder unto the enemy.
Training and combat generate focus, unparalleled focus. From Napoleon, “I see only one thing, namely the enemy’s main body. I try to crush it, confident that secondary matters will then settle themselves.”
The issue of control dominates the military mind…and we aren’t ashamed of it. We will readily tell you that we seek to shape events, control those around us.
From the Command Master Chief in G.I. Jane (Yes I saw it and yes, I hated it, but this is a great quote) “The ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides, the drift of the continents, the very position of the sun along its ecliptic. THESE are just a FEW of the things I control in my world!”
God calls us to the opposite, to relinquish.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
So tight a grip I maintain on my reality that the idea of allowing God to direct my life is a difficult thing, aside from the silly notion that God needs my permission to do anything. After coming to faith in Christ in 2005, God steadily expanded His purview over my life and as He steadily took control, at one point I shouted at Ami in frustration, “It can’t all be about God can it!?” It seems that God had quite a different idea about the nature of things than I did.
During some training once, one of the ground force fell from the fast rope, about 20 feet, and hurt his back. One of the guys came in with a downcast countenance and reported it to the sergeant major.
“He’ll live, get back to training.”
“Sergeant Major, he’s hurt pretty bad.”
“I went down the rope and didn’t fall. Maybe he’ll hold on a little tighter next time!”
Perhaps Secretary of Defense Mattis epitomizes the bluster best. In speaking to a group of sailors he extoled them, “You’re not some **** sitting on the sidelines.” Previously, when speaking of anti-war protestors, he urged those who meet one to wink at his girlfriend, “because she knows she’s dating a ****.”
The military eschews weakness, despises it. We seek to root out weakness, to identify it, and then to eliminate it, suppress it, remove it. From basic indoctrination into advanced training and into the units, the military exhorts soldiers to be brave, courageous. Never show weakness. Ever.
God shows His strength in our weakness.
Concerning the thorn in his flesh, Paul writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) The weakness of Paul’s flesh displays the power of God.
I had a friend ask me once about the type of people God used in the Bible. He was surprised that God would lean upon a coward or an adulterer or a prostitute. That is the amazing thing about God. He takes our weakness and shows His strength.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
No matter how tough I may be, I’ll always come across someone tougher. My bluster, no matter how legitimate, at some point rings hollow. God is glorified, His power manifest, in my weakness.
Surrender is not in our creed. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist. We will ever accept defeat. We will fight and we will win our nations war…valiantly, proudly, audaciously.
Our language drips with this credo. Even in the face of overwhelming enemy, we never retreat. We retrograde. We delay. We retire a position.
Our heritage exalts those who’ve fought against insurmountable circumstances, those who’ve stood in the face of imminent death and fought fiercely, refusing to surrender. From Valley Forge to COP Keating, we’ve seared refusal to surrender onto the collective conscience of the force. Death before dishonor.
Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that at some point, every knee will bow before Jesus. Every knee will bow in surrender, either willingly or driven by the wrath of a righteous God.
God calls us to surrender to Him, to surrender all things to Christ.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God.” (James 4:7a) The believer lives a life of submission starting with our initial surrender unto Christ. In sanctification, God calls the believer to submit in a number of ways: submit to church leadership, submit to governing institutions, submit to parents, wives submit to husbands.
Submission, closely tied to humility, governs the Christian walk. John the Baptist exclaims, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
In humility, the Christian life is a life of daily surrender. We are not what is important. I exist solely unto the glory of God. My glory matters not.
In many ways, the bravest thing a man may do is surrender.
I’ve known some true heroes over the years, men who’ve looked death in the face and stood their ground, men who’ve literally laid down their lives for their friends. I’ve seen men march headlong into the fray without hesitation, but the bravest men I’ve seen are those who’ve walked a life of faith, a life of surrender, every single day.
I call some of these men my fathers.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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