Wednesday, May 18, 2011

First Light

I have wondered for a long time about how soldiers get ready for their days, the ones in which they know they will have to risk their lives in combat and during which they might die. The rest of us get up, brush our teeth, decide what to wear or what to have for breakfast, kiss our spouse, and go to work. Somehow, a solder has to rub sleep out of his eyes, shoulder his weapon, and prepare to fight for his life.

I have heard a few discussions about this, memories of times filled with bullets and explosions and blood. I have heard about days when the dead lay all around except for one. I have heard about the smell of spent shells and been asked to imagine the sound of the accumulated gunfire of a hundred men shooting at once, but I have never experienced anything even remotely like it. I do know, however, someone who has.

Israel's King David did not use a gun, but he did use spears and shields. And he also did something that few soldiers can: he found words for what he experienced.

Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life, men without regard for God. -Psalm 53: 3
See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, O Lord--Psalm 59:3
Every soldier must at some time cry out just like David did. And I'm ashamed to say it, so do I, even though my lot is less dangerous and the price much lower. Some days, enemies just seem to crowd around and I can almost hear their spears rattle. On those days, though, I have to find solace in the same place David did.
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler, arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. --Psalm 35: 1-2a

And on those days, knowing that we do not have the final say as to who wins or loses, who lives or dies, there is only one place to look for real assurance.
Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation.' Psalm 35: 2b
Rest, soldier. Your battle may still rage, but the Victor fights beside you, and has already won.

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