"Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness?" Romans 6:16 LITV
IT has been a difficult month so far and doesn't seem to be looking like it is going to change status anytime soon. Disappointments abounded, unpleasant surprises peppered me like blown sand and the sheer impossibility of doing what I am doing hampered each and every step I took. Like a 'last stand.' It made me think of Custer's last stand; where misinformation and poor coordination led to the biggest defeat of US Army forces in the Indian Wars. As I researched Custer's last battle, I realized that 'last stand' is actually misapplied here and that Custer, while courageous and foolish at the same time, was a victim of procedural thinking. So, Custer's Last Stand isn't the right thought to apply to my situation….or is it?
"Last stand" is usually used as a military term to describing the event where troops holding a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds, taking very heavy casualties to the point where they are numerically overwhelmed or are completely destroyed while also inflicting high casualties on the opponent, or the last pitched battle of a war where the position of the defending force is hopeless but the defending force considers it their duty not to surrender until forced to do so, as in the numerical overwhelming of their forces or inability to bring defensive fire due to lack of ammunition. In Custer's case, it was his miscalculation and wrong information that cause him to be overwhelmed and defeated…..outside the parameters of a last stand, but his defeat was characterized as such by the media of the time. A misnomer that continues today.
There are many famous, and real, last stands in the histories of the world and more often than not, we feel a certain honor towards the brave souls that took part in them. The Battle of Thermopylae, made 'famous' by the movie 300, was the last stand of King Leonidas I of Sparta with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and a few hundred others defended the rear of the retreating Greek Army against the flanking Persians led by King Xerxes I that allegedly boasted numbers in the millions. Leonidas and his troops were overwhelmed, but the resultant delay proved to be Xerxes defeat. The Papal Swiss Guards, who were reduced down to 189 from defending Vatican City from the 20,000 plus bloodthirsty troops of Emperor Charles V, mounted the steps of St Peter's Basilica to give their Pope, Clement V time to escape. When the Guard was overwhelmed, only 42 wounded remained, but the Pope escaped. The Battle of the Alamo, where the Republic of Texas found its young voice first as a nation and then as a state in the cry "Remember the Alamo," is another case of bravery in the face of utter annihilation. Santa Anna's crack Mexican troops, numbering around 2,000, surged against the old Spanish mission's 182 poorly armed rebels after a 12 day standoff and slaughtered every one of them, with the exception of the women, children and two African American slaves. This rally cry would give birth to a nation within a nation that still beats today. With the current administration in office, the Texans have thought of invoking that 'nation-hood' status once more.
We were born to be fighters, warriors in the eternal and spiritual battle to bring the gospel to the lost and to disciple those who accept the salvation of Jesus Christ so they can fulfill their purposes in Christ's kingdom. We win some, we struggle with others and sometimes we lose those fights. Sometimes, in the darkness of this life, we can do nothing more than circle the wagons, stock our limited ammunition beside us within ready reach and kiss our loved ones (if they are unfortunate enough to be with us) goodbye while there is still time. There comes a moment in the battle where it has permanently swayed against those who stand on one side and retreat is impossible, if it was ever an option considered in the first place. A last stand is made, heads held high and guns cocked…..even when the outcome is not in question. Honor demands its ultimate expression…..
In the big battles of this life, we all face that ultimate 'last stand' where all we have done, all we have to offer to the fight and all we have gained in this journey towards home is gathered around us, piled high, with us hunkered behind it……praying desperate prayers to a God that seems absent and looking elsewhere as the enemy gathers his forces against our humble, inferior force. In that moment, where the wind whistles through the gaps in the defenses and howls a mournful wail, we have a choice.
We can fight or we can, as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain (posted by a friend on FB), "….. we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms." Sometimes, in the absence of hope or the assurance of victory, we only have one thing left to do……the one honorable and merciful thing to do when faced with our last stands against the superior numerical forces of the enemy………………..lay down our arms, and surrender to our God.
And over Again…..
Because when we surrender ourselves to God in the obedience of righteousness, we become that exception to the 'rule' of last stands. Our inferior numbers are overwhelming to the enemy forces arrayed against us. No amount of financial need, physical discomfort, mental anguish or worldly discrimination can stand against the power and authority of God and when we are in obedience to Him, He is within the circle of wagons with us...the enemy is defeated.
Facing your last stand today? If so, throw the enemy a curve ball……lay down your arms and stand tall, surrendering to the God who has defeated death because of His love for you and who wants nothing more than to come to your aid……
It'd be the last thing the enemy would expect or want you to do.
Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things. --Frank A. Clark