More of What Matters when caught in friendly fire army crawled to the front of my thinking this past year.
These months have been a compilation of circumstances and relational experiences, many of which have highlighted what I’ve been writing about for two years now, whether in a spiritual boxing ring or here, in deep waters. Since I’m aware that I’m not the only one experiencing 2018’s crossfire, I write.
Whether comrades admit it or not, we are in a spiritual war. Not made of human hands (though that too), but daily supplied by what is stored in human hearts.1
Most of us are familiar with the phrase the battlefield of the mind. I’d like to suggest that the munitions factory resides in our human spirit: the storehouse of all that has been decided, rehearsed, and stowed away at the soul level, to become part of our core from which we live life: both the negative and fearful, and the constructive and life-giving.
Over a lifetime, we internalize a mix of both. The Apostle Paul described in detail in Romans 7 and 8 the warring that takes place within. He provided clear distinction between those who are (living life) according to the flesh and those who are (living life) according to the Spirit:
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh,
but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
(Romans 8:5-6 NASB)
When the negative and fearful stored away in the munitions factory is supplying the soul’s demand, the battle that’s been waging on the field of one’s mind usually doesn’t stay there. It has a way of staging its fleshly mindset externally.
On the flip side, arming ourselves with the constructive and life-giving (as much as it goes against our human nature, Paul’s soliloquy as case in point), we become a different kind of arms dealer. Life-giving. Even our own spirit rejoices!
when friendly fire doesn’t feel particularly friendly
I know a lot of people. That doesn’t mean a lot of people know me. Even those I think should and wish did. Especially before they verbally shoot, ready, aim. Though not into rocket science, I suspect this rubber bullet is known by many.
On the other hand, put our feet in their shoes. None of us are exempt from being asked, “…and how would you feel?” when we turn around and are guilty of friendly firing similar words and behavior.
It’s often not the ones with whom we aren’t that close that puts our emotions in the crosshairs, but those who are. Which is why it’s called friendly fire. The pain, however, testifies to the fact that there’s more fire than friendly to it.
the purpose of foxholes
Watch any old war movie and the purpose of foxholes is soon evident. Likewise, when we’re caught in the crosshairs of a spiritual battle, there are times friendly fire makes the foxhole particularly inviting –
- when the verbal barrage is from a position that accidentally hits one’s own; not intentionally, but ouch!
- worse, and harder to shield from is when ‘friendly troops’ are mistakenly attacked in the belief they’re the enemy.
- hardest and most grief producing is when the frenemy must win and total shutout ensues. Hello, foxhole.
There are areas of my own munitions factory that have undergone a substantial renovation project over the years. One arose as a topic of conversation several times. In sincerity, I started to share testimony to the hard work done and victory won, only to be immediately shut down. Later, there was another opportunity; same result. And again, in the midst of a decided one-way conversation. I had smartened up enough to not try countering the mindset a third time, but then the final volley was delivered, and … incoming!
The subject of the dialogue – at the core of my substantial renovation – was delivered a zinger that made my blood warm right up, whereas I used to bleed over it. The Lord promises that in our weakness, He is strong. He’s not lying. His Spirit immediately rose up in me to mentally refute the verbal bullet’s lie. In that moment, His Spirit witnessed to my spirit.2 We both knew what was true. We both knew the journey, the pruning, and the discipline I had undergone. We knew.
Through that particular engagement I was reminded the axe had long been laid to that root. Not a non-productive, easily-given mental assent, followed by going my merry way. No, I’d gone to the mat with the Lord times too numerous to count. Each time He revealed more, and each time I had a choice to make, until I finally yielded to His heart surgery as only He can perform. No human can accomplish within what only the One who indwells His children can effectually complete.
As I recognized at a deeper than surface level what was taking fire and from whom, I engaged my mind as well and internally refused to come under it again. Even though, and especially because it was a case of more of what matters when caught in friendly fire: the real enemy.
So my friends,
In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource.
Put on God’s complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack.
For our fight is not against any physical enemy:
it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual.
We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world,
and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.
Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to
resist evil in its day of power,
and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground.
Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate,
the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet
and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
Above all be sure you take faith as your shield,
for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you.
(Ephesians 6:10-17, JBP NT)
~ Gracefully Free
1 Proverbs 20:5-7
2 Romans 8:11-18, esp. verse 16