All honor to him who shall win the prize’
The world has cried for a thousand years;
But to him who tries and who fails and dies,
I give great honor and glory and tears.
Great is the hero who wins a name,
But greater many and many a time
Some pale-faced fellow who dies in shame,
And lets God finish the thought sublime.
And great is the man with a sword undrawn,
And good is the man who refrains from wine;
But the man who fails and yet fights on,
Lo, he is the twin-born brother of mine!
After several days of dealing with awakened desire, deep loss, grief, inner struggle, and self-doubt, I was exhausted. Weary from the inner chatter, I finally just asked God what he thought of me, and this is the memory that came:
A couple of years ago I was at a men’s retreat in Colorado; we did this practice of listening prayer called a “Prayer Clinic.” A small group of men got together in a circle to listen for God to say which of us was to get in the middle and give a five-minute version of his story, or whatever may be current, and then listen for God’s words for him. In the very last session the men heard my name so I got in the middle and told my story. At this point the men asked a couple of questions and then went to the Father and asked “Father, what words do you have for him?”
Many powerful words were spoken over me that day. Words that I know came from God; they are still bringing clarity and truth. I don’t remember which man said these words, but I do remember them resonating deeply in me–something was awakened. And it was awakened again this morning when I saw the last two lines of the poem above. The words were “a man after my own heart.“
I heard John Eldredge (the man who taught me that my desire was indeed a good thing) say that if a man expressed his heart today the way King David did, they would lock him in a psych-unit. THAT I can relate to (the passion and unfortunately being locked in the psych-unit). David had a deep capacity for feeling; his writings are filled with burning passion, deep lament, impromptu joy, and scandalous freedom; and this is a picture of God’s heart. My desires have been misdirected at times, leading me into addictions, and other harmful situations through the years, but thank God I never completely killed them. I tried, I was convinced the problem was the desires of my heart (meaning “me”), but the problem was in the misdirection–not the desire. My desire and passion (heart) is coming back to life as I go back and grieve the times it was assaulted, and shut down; it is a beautiful thing.
I saw the truth of Gods words for me where passion was concerned, but David was not only a deeply passionate man, he was a bad ass warrior as well. I never really saw myself as courageous because it seemed as if life had been kicking my ass on a regular basis ever since preschool. I never saw that these attacks were not because I was weak, but they were directed at my strength (my heart). The arrows have been flung with deadly accuracy, with many direct hits, but no kill shots.
You can’t have passion without courage; they both flow from the same heart. I love the David and Goliath story. I love that he was just a kid. All of these soldiers were wondering what to do with this hulking freak of a soldier, and this kid unflinchingly steps up and says “wait a minute, who is this uncircumcised Philistine? I’ll fight him!” I can hear the certainty, faith, and passion in his young voice. He knocks the crap out of Goliath with a sling and a small stone–then cuts off his head. I can imagine the other soldiers standing around scratching their heads and wondering “wtf just happened?” That is the heart of God, and I want that heart.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23
David knew his identity, he knew he belonged to God, he had his heart, and that was all he needed. But I don’t even think the victory was Gods main focus that day. I think it was David’s heart that made God smile. I think if David would’ve missed, all of Heaven would’ve still cheered–just because he had the courage to sling a rock when no one else did.
God stirs my heart for battles that are rarely safe. They are wrought with danger, usually go against common sense, or what the “good religious” people might think. They often leave me doubting myself, and go far beyond any training or preparation I may have. The cautious voices in my head can say “no” all they want, but God knows the deep desires he has put in my heart, he knows (far better than I) that it is good, and that I will eventually follow it. Who knows how many people he chooses before coming to us that prefer to just play it safe. My life has never been safe, so why start now that I am Fathered by God-of-the-Angel Armies? I don’t always get to see a victory (in my perception), but I have seen plenty of them, and they have left me in awe of the Father.
I want to end this with words that I recently heard from a deeply passionate and skilled warrior-teacher, whose heart, compassion, and courage run more deeply than I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if these were his words, or if he was quoting someone else so I’m going to leave it open, but here is what Ive been praying:
“Give me a really sharp sword, and give my hands skill.
Send me into the darkest part of the battle that you think I have the capacity to do well with.
Send me against a foe that will kill me unless you are present.
Put the neck of evil under my feet.“