Raw Reflections from the Journey

Friday, December 11, 2009

Licking Wounds or Living Like a Warrior?

I have a friend who trains Special Forces soldiers. His specialty is preparing them psychologically for fierce battle against overwhelming odds. One of the first things he does is to pour a gallon of cherry syrup at their feet. He says that the color and consistency of the fluid is similar to blood. The objective is to show the soldiers how much blood they can lose and still be able to fight. In other words, wounded warriors can still war on... "Since their job is to accomplish important missions, it is essential that they understand that even if they become severely wounded that they can still fight and make a contribution."

As a Clinical Counselor I know that any person that is put under unrelenting duress for a long enough period of time will evince psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, etc. While thresholds for stress vary, if one could orchestrate a series of disappointing, discouraging, and disillusioning occurrences for even the most optimistic person, the stress would eventually surpass their threshold for resiliency. I've seen it hundreds of times clinically, but until the past five years I hadn't experienced it myself.

The fact that I'm writing about this says something. I think I'm coming out of it. And, as crazy as it sounds, I'm glad I've gone through it.

How can one every really know what it is to suffer until they've suffered? This doesn't mean that non-sufferers or "not-yet" sufferers can't empathize with folks that are really going through something; it's just that those that have been there have a different look in their eye, a sober, realistic, "I'm sorry, I wish I could make it better, I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy" type of look and attitude.

When the three D's (disappointments, discouragements, and disillusionments) pile on, it is common for a person to develop a negative view of themselves, others and the world. Granted, there are probably legitimate negative facets of all three, but for the person who is struggling with situational depression (the psychological and emotional response to a critical mass of the three D's)the negativity about self, others and the world is disproportionate. That's when self-preservation kicks in. A person is likely to turn inward and become self-absorbed in a way that perpetuates the depressive state. Not only that, but they're likely to begin living a prescription for depression.

When you query the details of daily life for a person that is staggering under the weight of three D's, you'll likely find that they have begun to live a prescription for depression. They are apt to forsake activities that were once highly pleasurable (e.g., hobbies and recreation, friendships, even sex), healthy habits (sleep, diet, exercise) and that they are essentially aimless and unfocused regarding goals for the future. Of course, the severity of dysfunction is on a continuum and varies with many factors, but you get the point; such persons are more apt to live a prescription that sustains depression rather than life as an energetic, disciplined and focused Kingdom warrior.

Personally, I identify with John Eldredge's depiction of a Kingdom warrior; a man made in the image of Jesus the Lion of Judah who lives for a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to rescue. And, I function best when I live a recipe for spiritual, physical, and mental prowess. This is where cross-training comes in.

Recently I've been hungry for adventure on my bike. During the first snowfall of the season in DC I was on my bike for a 25 mile jaunt. The wind was whipping and the mix of sleet and snow was pelting my face. My legs were burning from the cold, and I was very, very happy...fully alive, on the rivets of my physical capabilities with heart racing, adrenaline coursing through my body, and worship music ringing in my ears extolling the Creator of all that I was seeing and inhaling deeply into my God-hungry soul. Five miles from home I begged God to give me the strength an ability to make it home and to stave off hypothermia. This was an epic adventure and a manufactured battle to fight against the elements and psychological limits of endurance and exhaustion. And Eldredge's third element was present, too...a beauty to rescue. My thoughts went something like this...

Jesus fought his way to the cross. He was not a whimpering victim who begged for His life to be spared, but rather a willing Savior who was determined to fulfill His part of the plan to redeem humankind to God; one for all, once for all. He was a tough man, sinewy, rugged, and with callouses on his feet and hands from a physically demanding life that he engaged joyfully and successfully. AND, what one man can do, another can do. What He did I can do by His life in me. So, pedal on. Grunt, grind, strain, strive and move forward. Get home, pick up the pace, give it all you got. The life of the triumphant one is in me. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

I have a choice, and so do you. When we are overcome and overwhelmed with the D's we can lick our wounds, and become self-absorbed, complacent and undisciplined, or we can live a prescription that builds our capabilities as Kingdom warriors. And lest you think that physical discipline and training is enough, consider Paul's exhortation to Timothy (I Timothy 4:8) For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The Kingdom warrior must not only practice physical discipline, but also spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, fasting, prayer, solitude, etc. Physical training makes it easier for me to say yes to other disciplines because I habitually do the things that my body doesn't want to and my mind says it may not be able to do.

Given our times, how should we live? Are you living a life worthy of the calling you have received? Are you habitually offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto the Lord? Are you soaking in His Word and in His presence by letting your mind fly to Him vs. preoccupation with pleasure and acquisition? Where are you on the continuum between self-absorbed wound licking and living life as a Kingdom warrior? What it God calling you to do or to forsake as you contemplate what I've written?

My prayer for me and for you is that we would walk in His footsteps today, just one step at at time.

I John 2:6, Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

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