The last assignment in my counseling course left me very confused. I was to create a coat-of-arms for my kingdom, which was supposed to get me thinking about my calling. I had no idea how to begin when my friend Ruth suggested that whatever has been most ruthlessly attacked in my life will have something to do with what God is calling me to bring to the world. So I looked back in my life at everything that has been stolen, killed, and destroyed. What stood out as being the most assaulted? Hope. The depression, suicide attempts, suicidal drug use, drowning in alcohol, isolation, indifference, and lust were all aimed at killing the last flickering flame of hope that might keep me alive and moving toward redemption.
Hope is an act of defiance in this world; it doesn’t deny the darkness, but refuses to let it rule.
I decided my kingdom would be one of defiant hope. Hope isn’t optimism; it fully recognizes and honors sorrow, but holds it with the knowledge that everything we were meant for is coming, increasingly in this life, and fully in the one to come. Hope is an act of defiance in this world; it doesn’t deny the darkness, but refuses to let it rule.
The coat of arms for my kingdom displays a large heart at the bottom of the shield, declaring that here, the heart matters above all. Love matters above all. I want eyes to see past words, past behavior and posing, into the deepest, truest part of all who enter. That’s what happens for me; God’s kids see past the barrage of crap and come for the heart! They see me, the real me, when I cannot. My heart was closed off and protected for nearly all of my life; no one could enter (not even me). That is why this one is wide open for a constant flow of love, vulnerability…Life.
There are seven little yellow/gold hearts inside; these represent the people in my counseling-course group. They, along with other allies, helped build this kingdom, and have a key to every door. These hearts also symbolize my alliance with their kingdoms, and with those of many other allies. Before, I saw no need for alliances—I thought my kingdom could stand alone, but now I know that without these alliances, my kingdom suffers great loss. And finally these hearts declare a kingdom of fellowship and friendship, love, laughter—a safe place to play together, or to cry together. All who enter are pulled out of darkness and isolation, to share life with other beautiful and broken people.
One of the ways God romances and pursues my wife’s heart is through butterflies, and so the red heart with the butterfly on it belongs to her. My kingdom is filled with romance and intimacy. It declares the Sacred Romance—Gods relentless pursuit of our hearts—His commitment to a deep and personal intimacy with his beloved. Pornography and lust may have crept into my young life to kill intimacy, and to shame desire, but in my kingdom romance, intimacy, passion, and desire are redeemed and flourishing.
The cross and the dove mark my kingdom as one of hope, defiant hope. It also declares that my kingdom falls under the exclusive rule of Jesus Christ. His authority reigns here; He reigns here. He moves through the kingdom freeing captives, and restoring hearts. The blue flame represents the Spirit, whose presence fills the kingdom with Life, Passion, and Light—He searches out every place of darkness in us and leaves no shame or wound unattended. The dove serves as a constant reminder of hope; neither his message, nor the Flame, can ever be extinguished by any measure of darkness.
Sons and Daughters
The hands in the middle represent God, the Father. It proclaims that we are no longer orphans, but fathered by the loving, playful, and powerful God-Of-All-Creation. I was orphaned early in my life, and introduced to God as Father much later. The father-son relationship was all but destroyed very early in my life, but in this kingdom it is the strongest bond in the universe; there is nothing it cannot withstand. He fiercely protects us. He gives us love and provision unimaginable. He teaches us wisely, and provides discipline and unending growth. His smile makes us smile, his laugh makes us laugh. He wrestles with us, and takes us on indescribable adventures. He plays with us until we can no longer keep our eyes open, and then lets us rest in his strong and tender arms. We lay our heads on his chest, and feel the warmth radiating outward as we drift into slumber listening to the soothing beat of his heart. There is no better feeling, and there is no better Father in the world.
“Mark this: Unless you accept God’s Kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Luke 18:17
The picture of the little boy writing declares freedom of expression for the young places in all of us. All of those young places that I was once so ashamed of are now celebrated, embraced, and honored. Their voices are beautiful; to be in their presence is grace. Their expression is not just welcomed, but longed for. They hold the key to laughter, vulnerability, tears, celebration, adventure, and play. They have so much to teach us about our hearts, because theirs is abounding. In my kingdom, every ear turns when their voice is present; their words are truthful and can rarely be heard without tears, joy, grief, awe, and gratitude. They bring life and love, and are held in the highest regard. The kingdom was made for them. We love them, we hold them, and we honor them. Also, the writing symbolizes a kingdom of creative expression; we embrace and honor all forms of creative beauty here.
Finally, the symbol at the top, looking out for all of the others, is the symbol of a warrior. Without the warrior, the beautiful work of the kingdom is thwarted. The symbol of the Navy Seal Trident was shown to me in a quiet time with God while I was asking him who I was in His Kingdom. I have been in awe of the Seals ever since I read the book ‘Fearless’ about Adam Brown, a Navy Seal from Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Seals are highly trained band of elite warriors who go in with precision and authority to take out a specific strong man, or to rescue an ally. They are rarely heard, or seen.
Nothing moves my heart more than when I see a brother or sister under attack from the kingdom of darkness. Adrenaline pulses through my body, tears fill my eyes; I am sorrowful and pissed all at the same time. And nothing does this more than spirits of death, and depression—every enemy of Life and Hope. There are many times that God has really stirred my heart to intercede for one of His, and I am honored, humbled, and moved when He calls on me fight for his beloved. I sometimes fight awkwardly, and usually hesitantly, but God honors my willingness to engage the enemy, and it is His sword that I get to swing
The Trident is gold, and gold symbolizes being tried, tested, and having endured the refining fire. The eagle on the Trident has his head down low, which means he is in attack mode, but also recognizes that humility is the true measure of a warrior’s strength. It is one of the few places you will see an eagle without the head held high and proud. The eagle also represents a kingdom of vision—eyes to see. The anchor is a sign of stability and hope; this one is old and weathered, which honors the ancient paths of the great warriors before us. For my kingdom, the three prongs represent the authority of the Trinity. The gun is cocked and loaded, meaning the warrior must be ready at all times. The King commissions, and imparts His authority to the warriors in my kingdom; He then sends them out into the kingdom of darkness to tread upon the heads of every enemy. They are the great ones, and we honor them.
My kingdom summons all orphans, strangers, and widows. They are seen here, given a voice, and freedom of expression. They are fought for, and comforted. They are introduced to the King, and reunited with their True Father who passionately pursues their hearts. They are befriended and given the highest consideration in the kingdom. They are trained by warriors, and given a unique role. This is a kingdom of love, strength, honor, and defiant hope. My deepest desire is to bring this kingdom into every place in the world that I am called. I’ve been given all of these things; they are all true.
I didn’t learn, as I hoped I would from this assignment, the specifics of how I am to bring this kingdom to the world. But whatever it is, I know that it includes living a life of scandalous freedom; one that awakens desire and hope, defies darkness, and lights a path to the Father. I keep remembering the words which, to date, are the ones I’ve heard most clearly from God, “Enjoy your peace and freedom.” The kindness, and wisdom behind this command still astounds me. What stronger message of hope could a prophet bring, what louder call to repentance and redemption could he proclaim than—in all circumstances—to live boldly in the freedom and identity bestowed on him by his Father?