The solider cowers under the bridge of his helmet and the barrage of heavy gunfire. The foxhole provides, at least for the moment, an asylum. Anxiously his fingers trace the stock of his rifle, rise to scratch his whiskered cheeks, and descend again to drum the trigger guard. Unconsciously this routine plays forward again and again. He bites his lip. Nervously his eyes dart up and down the line. Bloodied comrades lay scattered across boxes of ammunition. His eyes drop to his boots. Mud clings to the brogans, as if cementing him in the ditch.
“I must go…I must fight… I can’t fall. I can’t die…” The words continue to ricochet from one side of his mind to the other. His fear falls to courage. The courage gives way to madness before collapsing once more under the threat of the unknown.
Perhaps a look will revive bravery. He swings the rifle to his back, fumbles with his pistol, and then slowly pushes against the mire. His helmet peeks above the battle-riddled earth. The scene is apocalyptic. Cannons crack from beyond the tree-line, spitting fire upon the field. The incessant rattle of the machine guns chill his soul. Trees have been mowed to jagged stumps. Shrubs and brush curl unnaturally to the ground as if mourning the immense devastation. Ever increasing fires smolder upon the battlefield turning the sky eery shades of orange and grey. A tank has been blown on its head; a jeep violently torn apart and engulfed in flames. Horses and soldiers litter the ground sending medics scurrying for supplies and rats scavenging for their next meal. The screams of the dying are unnerving. The smells of war are overwhelming.
The soldier slides back to the muck. His pistol slips back to the holster. He raises a trembling canteen to parched lips. His sleeve wipes water but, in the process, applies soot to his face. His heart pounds through his gear. He wraps white-knuckles around the rifle once more. He senses the warmth of blood in his mouth; the metallic taste filling his tongue. Tears well in his dark eyes. The fear is palpable. It lays hold of him. It lands with the force of a thousand packs upon his shoulders.
He closes his eyes to the carnage. His mind drifts to his commander. He hears again the directive: “Fight.” He knows the promise: “You will succeed.” Victory is sure, and his general has never erred before. But the guarantee of conquest is not a guarantee of safe-passage to the enemy’s side. The battle will be won but harm will befall. It’s the nature of war; the price of subjugation. Will he trust his commander? Will he, a soldier, do what soldiers are trained to do? Will he find the courage to charge the inferno knowing the battle is won? Or will he be mastered by fear? Will he continue to cower under the bevy of enemy fire and the screams of fallen allies?
The soldier must make a decision. And so must you.
In no uncertain terms the scriptures declare that we are at war. The adversary is evil itself. The weapons are sinister and the cries of the wounded warriors around us paralyze with fear. The victory has been promised to us, but safe-keeping, at least in the here and now, is never guaranteed. Will we cower in the foxholes of our homes, endlessly drumming smartphone screens and bowing to the threat of cultural acceptability; or will we place boots on the battlefield?
The setting is real. The situation is dire. The time to fight is now. Courage, dear heart.