What makes a fierce warrior?
Recently, I found myself taking a day to do nothing but watch college football. (I cannot remember ever doing that other than on a New Year’s Day.) The season was in its last two weeks of regular schedules, with conference playoffs to determine who were the “chosen” four teams to advance and play for the title of college football national champion.
There were a couple of games I watched from beginning to end, and others I followed while channel surfing during commercial breaks. All of these teams were playing with a great purpose: to display their worthiness to be selected as one of the “chosen” four teams for the national championship playoff.
The first game I watched was the Ohio State/Michigan game. Though I’m not a proclaimed fan of any team I watched that day, I was particularly intrigued with Ohio State. I had recently watched an interview with their head coach Urban Meyer who was asked how he’d won the national championship the previous year. Ohio State amazed everyone with how well they played as the fourth seed of the “chosen” four for the 2014 season. He quoted G.K. Chesterton: “The greatness of the warrior is not defined by hating what is in front of him but rather loving what is behind him.”
Coach Meyer went on to say that he formed small communities on his team based on their positions (linemen, defensive backs, quarterbacks, linebackers, etc.) and from that, these guys became bands of brothers who deeply loved one another in the context of their mission to play out a winning season. The power of that love motivated them to play at an amazing level that led to their national championship. In other words, it was the love these guys had for one another that proved so powerful in their mission.
Next, I watched the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game that determined the Big 12 Champion, in which the Oklahoma Sooners handily overpowered the OSU Cowboys by five touchdowns. I saw a similar thing in the post-game interview with the Sooner quarterback. They asked him what it was that caused them to play at such a high level of intensity and fierceness. His reply was, “We [his team] just love one another and there is nothing we wouldn’t do for one another.”
Later that day, I watched the incredible Stanford/Notre Dame game where Stanford, behind by one point, with less than a minute to play, drove down the field and kicked a 45-yard field goal with time expiring to win the game. This was one of the best games of the year. The most valuable player was interviewed following the game and asked, “How did you do it?” His reply was, “I’ve never been closer to a group of guys as I am these men. We are really really close and we love one another.”
Now let’s go to a larger story…
As our country has been at war for almost 25 years, beginning when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, we have paid a very high price in many categories, including the thousands of lives lost and tens of thousands traumatically injured both physically and psychologically (PTSD). What I find fascinating is that the line of volunteers who choose to serve our country in the face of these risks is almost endless. It says much about the character of men and women who have carried this burden for our country now for two and a half decades. Their motives for joining are varied—wanting to be part of something larger than themselves, fighting against evil in the world, protecting our freedom threatened by jihad, and many more. We owe much to these who have chosen to fight in defense of our freedoms and our way of life.
As in any war, there are many told and untold stories of heroism and valor of those who have both died and survived in the course of war. What is it that causes one to risk their life in war? Sebastian Juenger, a war correspondent assigned to the U.S. Army in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, wrote of this experience in his book War. His assignment was with our troops in one the most dangerous locations that suffered the highest casualties in the long war in Afghanistan. Juenger was amazed at how courageous these men were day after day in prolonged firefights. He stated his observation like this: “Courage is love...in war neither can exist without the other.”
There it is again! What made these men so courageous was their love for one another in the context of their mission, which echoes John 15:13. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The depth of that love, “Greater love has no one than this,” explains why so many of those men would volunteer again and again for such dangerous assignments: it is the depth of that love for one another. And it is why such men who have experienced this depth of love sometimes find it difficult to assimilate back into everyday life. So, it is love that is such a key part of the heart of a warrior.
At our last Wild at Heart Boot Camp debrief here in Colorado just last month, one of the men on the team was sharing about our team time together on mission during Saturday night at boot camp. I am paraphrasing as I share what he said: “After doing a decade and a half of boot camps together as a team, for tens of thousands of men here in Colorado and all over the world, we have found a deep love for one another that is hard to describe.”
What drives this love so deep is that we as a team have fought side by side for the hearts of tens of thousands of men on the battlefields of our boot camps. The rescue of men out of spiritual darkness into redemption and restoration is an intense battle between darkness and light. It is fraught with demonic spirits of darkness that have bound these men in prisons of bondage. Freeing these men opens us up to intense warfare as we enter these battles together; however, our team also becomes more deeply bonded in love with one another as fellow warriors. This is the same kind of love I described above with the football analogy, as well as the men fighting together in Afghanistan. What makes our battle unique and the story so significant at boot camps is the eternal spiritual consequence of the men rescued. By facing the consequences together of rescuing the hearts of men in this great spiritual battle, a deep bond of love has been created and continues to grow and deepen within our team.
What makes a fierce warrior? LOVE.