FOCUS – Falling in line
‘Tis June, which means that we Salvationists somehow hear the rat-a-tat-tat of a snare drum in our heads. This time of year, more than any other, we think of what it means to be a soldier in God’s army, for this month many will gather in Long Beach to encourage one another in the fray and to send new officers into battle. Other officers prepare to relocate to new fronts while the soldiers, still constant in the fight, prepare to receive them. We fall in line to the tapping of the drum, and we march.
My little red, yellow and blue heart soars when I witness a sea of uniforms and join my comrades in belting out the chorus of “We Shall Win.” I make no apology for the fact that I love it. The beauty of Army imagery is that, for the most part, it is not imagery at all. We truly are at war. There is urgent battle around us as the forces of God clash swords with the forces of Satan. Satan would love to convince us that it isn’t actually war, that nothing too terribly vital is taking place where we are. Such a notion leads to complacency. And a complacent army is a defeated army.
I don’t mean to imply that one must wear our uniform to be engaged in the war by no means! The apostle Paul refers to Timothy as a soldier of Christ Jesus in II Timothy 2, and I’m fairly certain Timothy never owned one of our tunics. And it goes without saying that we are surrounded by fellow warriors who are not Salvationists.
But there is something “extreme” if I may about being in the Army. A soldier’s very uniform serves as a challenge to him, because whenever he dons it he is fully disclosed. No “secret service” for this warrior! By simply slipping on his polyester blues, he has declared himself. And he understands that the world around him expects him to live up to the standard of the S’s on his lapel. In the darkest days of my own life, my uniform served as some sort of tether, preventing me from straying too far. It nagged at me from my closet. It held me accountable.
The officer, I think, can only survive by remembering she is at war. She cannot choose her own living situation, and she may well find herself in a community she would never have chosen. She must remind herself that “this world is not my home,” and that she is sent where she is needed. A warrior does not pick her battlefront. Call me crazy, but the very fact that I am commanded where to go is instruction for me, reinforcing in my head that this war is real, that I am engaged in it, and that my personal comfort is not the goal. My dear friend, Captain Lisa Smith, recently wrote to me: “This is a life of adventure! This is life on the edge! We live by faith, and that means unknown excitement around every corner. Send me where the battle needs me!!”
Every Christian, no matter his location, must be involved in the war. Some are sent to distant lands. Others are needed in Oregon or California or Idaho. The battle is just as real in Modesto as it is in Moscow. Anyone who cannot identify the battle around him simply has his spiritual eyes closed.
On Mother’s Day, my son fell in line behind the drummer as he signed his Articles of War. He made a commitment that I know he takes very seriously. As testimony to that fact, he even wore his uniform to school the next day. Feeling sentimental (understandably), I dug my old journals out of the garage and found my entries from the day I became a senior soldier. Like my son, I was fourteen when I was enrolled. I was so excited that my journal entries were perfectly giddy (and so excited that I made two journal entries that day!). I was so full of hope I was going to be a faithful, wonderful soldier who read my Articles of War on a regular basis and who lived up to every promise. I have not always been the soldier I hoped to be. I confess that there are times that I have been a grave disappointment to myself, to my comrades, and to my Commander-in-Chief. But, hallelujah, I’m still in the war!
The demands of this war are hard at times, but we never fight alone. We have each other. We have the Holy Spirit, fighting through us. And need I remind you we are on the winning team?
Then forward to the conflict,
As through the world we go
Rejoicing in the blood
That washes white as snow.
Yes, we will fight for Jesus,
Though fierce the battle be;
O’er sin and Satan he will give
His soldiers victory.