November 2, 2011

The Things We Carry

I found myself carrying a Bible and laptop this morning and I realize that they are my primary tools for my ministry outside of my thinking, speaking, interpreting and hearing. Everything I need to study and produce a sermon, preach a sermon or teach people fits in my backpack, a military assault pack that doubles as a gym bag, book bag and a messenger bag. These things get me to thinking. Is this not what I have become? I have become a soldier / messenger of a message and a bearer of Good News in war against the powers and principalities of this world? It is at this point I recognize a parallel. A while ago I read a book by a man named Tim O’Brien named The Things They Carried. He writes as the narrator of the story as a man of 43 looking back at the Vietnam War. I also now find myself looking at my life (which seemed often like a war...and still does) at 43. I also think about those around me and it is why I will often refer to me/us simultaneously. Our lives are lived simultaneously right now and salvation to some extent is corporate or is at least tied into the corporate Body of Christ.

It is a book about American soldiers in Vietnam, the men of Alpha Company who have battled the enemy, the idea of the enemy, and occasionally each other. This to me is strangely akin to my battles with sin, the wiles of the Devil and shamefully, even my brethren. In the book you see their intermittent isolation, loneliness, rage, fear and the gamut of human emotions. They miss the normalcy of the life they have left. A life that was just as messed up as their life in war but their immediate problems make their old life look more appealing. Just like a Christian that attempts to leave their sin behind to pursue God only to find out that their new situation might actually be harder than their old one. God never said being a believer would be easy. 

Yet...they find compassion and dare I say it, Christian characteristics in completely foreign and strange people like an old Vietnamese man who leads them unscathed through a minefield. We also see the intense φιλέω/phileo love for each other, because they are isolated in a hostile world and they are brothers in arms. We see things akin to the earliest Christian disciples and to some extent our discipleship today along with the battles we too incur in steadfast devotion and obedience to the Lord. 

Like the men in O’Brien’s book, some Christians carry things along with them into battle that will impede them and drag them down to their death. We don’t necessarily need the enemy to bog us down when we have our own baggage of sin weighting us into the mud and mire of the battlefield. These extra encumbrances kept the soldiers in Vietnam from performing their duties and in some killed them prematurely. They could not perform their duties to their full capacity. In the same way our spiritual, emotional and physical encumbrances keep us from fulfilling ours to the Lord.

Those that are able to fully discharge their duties only carried the things that mattered. They carried light and traveled fast. They were ready to engage the enemy no matter where the enemy was to be found. Often the enemy was hidden in plain sight or they were within arms-reach heavily camouflaged in jungle foliage. Regardless, impediments that inhibit a solder (in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or in Christian life) from discharging their duties and protecting themselves or that of their buddies usually results in death…physical and/or spiritual.

The truth is we should only ever carry with us what we either need to keep forward motion in our walk or the things of value to us for life, physical or spiritual. I think the point is this: 

We must always live with the possibility of imminent end. We must understand and grasp what was/is truly of value to us at the point of death or after. Everything else is pointless or of little or no value. I think that is what point of The Things They Carried was, and it is the point of the Christian Faith. Christians carry with them what is of supreme value. The Spirit that indwells us. It is Christ that is within us. It allows us to travel light with a sense of urgency and be quick on our feet which is exactly what Jesus asked us to be when He said things like this to the Disciples.

“Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them…” Luke 9:3-6.

Also when He said:

Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” in Luke 9:59-60

You and I need only take the things necessary to complete our task, all else is superfluous and dead weight. Anything extra is just like adding to salvation, it can get you killed or compromise your life.

In O’Brien’s book we see the narrative of human frailty and mortality and I realize why I carry the things that I do. I personally carry the Bible and a Google Nexus (computer) and I try to draw the hope out of Scripture for other people to understand to the best of my ability. It’s what I now do. My Bible gives me everything I need because as Paul said...

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Bible tells me the truth about God. I carry it because it is my link to the Living God through words. It is sustenance like an MRE...a Meal ready to Eat (or a Master Ready to Emulate). It tells me the truth about sin and how Jesus is the atonement for the sin I could never work my way out of. It tells me everything I need to know about holiness and sanctification. It is the heart of God revealed to mankind in word. I now understand why I spent so much time over the last 20+ years intensively learning a broad base of word knowledge. Until recently I never understood why I had such an intense fascination with exact word meanings and usage. If a person cannot understand words which are symbols and represent ideas, people cannot proper communicate with other people or there is an inability to convey thoughts and feelings. I now understand this groundwork was actually a two decade boot camp so I had a head and experience to perform my duty properly. Without this intuitive knowledge that is accumulated over time I would be put in danger on the field of battle. The last two decades I believe God was preparing me for the mission I have already begun.

The knowledge I gathered is one of the few things I believe I will be able to take with me in the end. It is one of the few things that we gather here in this life that we take with us when we go to be with the Lord. This is why I feel it is so worthwhile to pursue it. Knowledge of the Lord is never wasted time plus it helps in the heat of battle now. I am now prepared to dismantle the arguments of the godless who exalt themselves against the Lord. Like a bomb disposal unit, I am charged by the Bible to do my best to dismantle godless arguments into harmless constituent components so they do not harm my family. It is as if I am defusing spiritual armaments and mines

So...I carry my computer because it links me to all my electronic resources like Greek and Hebrew Lexicons and dictionaries. It links me to commentaries for diversified Bible study. It allows me to work up manuscripts for sermons. It allows me to create posts for my blog. It allows me to complete my studies. It allows me to do research for others to teach them of God Word. I am using it to type this post for SoulJournaler.

In the end it strikes me how little I really need materially to fulfill my duty as a Christian. I have been equipped for my mission by God, what I choose to carry physically and mentally is quite negligible and by choice. 

Ironically, what is spiritual carries me. Jesus

Someone once said in reference to The Things They Carried...that stories can save us. They got the idea right but mentioned the wrong book. The book that I now carry can save us's called the Bible and within its covers is redemption and life eternal.

I recommend reading the Bible first and foremost but if you have the time, I would read O' Brien's book also. The Bible will instill the value into the types of lives that O'Brien describes. Lives of broken, frail sinful men that at their core, are human just like you and I. After you read The Things They Carried then you will want to read your Bible again because you will realize why you need to. Sometimes in the depth of our shamefulness and inhumanity, we sometimes get a glimpse of the place we could be and the person we could be if only we would turn to the One who could save us.

Jesus told us that if anyone would come after Him, they were to deny themselves and take up and carry their cross daily and follow Him. To me this is all that matters in the eternal scale of things. It shows what we value. If we die to self and are willing to follow Christ regardless of cost. We too will take up our cross and carry it daily because in the end, it is all we need to carry

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...