So a friend of mine is getting married and this weekend, for his bachelor party, a bunch of guys went out into the woods and played paint ball.
Dressed in a military fatigue cover-all (rented from the paintball place – ironically called Soldiers of Fortune Paint Ball) I ventured out into the hot forest hoping to shoot some guys and avoid getting shot myself.
Now I was born in 1982 and so I have never had to fight in a war. People born in the eighties don’t know about the draft and we can’t imagine getting handed a gun and packed into a truck and sent off to the front lines. I’ve never volunteered for the armed forces, or signed up to fight in the army, and I don’t live in a country that makes me serve after college or anything. But this past weekend when I found myself cowering behind a thin tree with little plastic balls full of paint whizzing past my head, I got a little taste of what war must have been like.
The verdict: I’m a coward.
I was terrified. Terrified far beyond the actual, practical dangers that surrounded me. I was a wimp. I was useless. I was ashamed.
There’s a great scene in the movie Saving Private Ryan where one of the soldiers, charged with holding the ammo and bringing it to the people who need it, gets so afraid that he is literally immobilized with fear, even when he can hear one of his comrades being killed and in need of help. It’s a powerful scene because usually in the movies people find their courage. Usually in the movies people start out like cowards and then somehow access some special kind of bravery when the moment arrises. But in that scene from Saving Private Ryan, and for me alone in the woods at Soldiers of Fortune Paint Ball, and for many real soldiers in real-life war, no courage came. No sudden lift of bravery arrived. Instead I just felt more fear. A sickening, paralyzing fear.
So why am I talking about this?
Well at Church today, God used my shameful weekend activities to give me a very important reminder.
A Christian should ask God for boldness and not for safety. God never said we would have a peaceful, safe, painless existence. In fact in our broken world the opposite is often true. There is a lot of pain. There is a lot to be afraid of. There is a lot to run away from. And often it is the job of the Christian to get between the victim and the stones. Often it’s our job to stand in the way of danger. Or to stand up even when it means we will be beaten down. Sometimes a Christian has to face danger and not win.
But still God tells us that we don’t need to be afraid.
As Paul so famously asks in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
So I’m trying to live like I really believe that. I’m trying to remind myself that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. I’m trying to remember that I don’t need to be safe, or comfortable, or strong.
God is taking care of me. He is my refuge and my strength. My courage comes from His sovereignty. And that truth can conquer any fear.
I just have so much trouble remembering. Maybe this bruise can remind me.
As you can see I got wounded in the back. Because I was running away.