(While I understand that this quote is very general, and thus can be applied by anyone to anything they believe, I still find it beautiful and inspiring.)
A few weeks ago Pastor Eddie Florentino used an illustration for affliction that really stuck with me and has been a source of encouragement to me over the last few weeks. The passage for that morning was Hebrews 12: 4-11:
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
While walking us through the text from Proverbs quoted in Hebrews during Pray Meeting, Pastor Eddie asked if we expected Navy SEALs to get easy training? Do we expect their training to be hard or just a walk in the park?
Well, the obvious answer is we expect their training to not only be hard, but the hardest. These men are supposed to be the elite of the elite. They are supposed to make all our other soldiers look like guys hanging out for the weekend. No soldier should have it easy in basic training. To make it easy on them is to do them a disservice because it leaves them open to attack when they go to war. The better trained our soldiers are the better chances they have of surviving and coming home to their families. (You should always worry if the standards of training are being lowered. That means someone is not getting the training they need. That puts them and everyone around them in danger.) The Navy Seals and all our other special forces should, and do, have training that makes basic look easy. We should hold them to a high standard and we should expect lots of men to be unable to cut it. If just anyone can make it through Navy SEAL training than we have a problem.
So what does this have to do with affliction and why did it stick with me?
It says in Hebrews that our affliction is God’s disciplining and training for us. It is how God molds us and makes us into his children. This world, in some ways, is our boot camp, our basic training, and God uses trials and and sufferings to get us in shape.
Yet for some reason we always complain that our “training” isn’t easy. Why oh why am I suffering?? We moan and complain when the Bible makes it very clear that God is perfecting us. You see that? Perfecting! I don’t know about you, but that seems like something that would require a lot of work. Perfection isn’t easy.
For six months, I’ve been struggling with health issue, and yet when I put my mind on them as training, as my spiritual boot camp, I find them much easier to bear with hope. I have hope in my trials because I know God is using them to make me a better soldier.
See, I’ve read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell (one of my top 10 favorite books) and American Sniper by Chris Kyle. Through their books, I have gained a very small understanding of what our Navy SEALs do in their training. I have vicariously experienced the mental and physical strength needed to survive to become a SEAL through their stories. Pastor Eddie’s illustration really struck home with me. I truly felt like Captain America in the picture above. I got that reference. It made many things click into place in my head. Their training is hard for a reason and our training by God is hard for a reason. It made my trials logical because I understood they were God’s work in my heart. God is not perfecting everyone. But, He is perfecting His people and that means my life is going to be a struggle, a battle, filled with trials and afflictions, because He loves me and isn’t going to leave me to myself.
That, my dear brothers and sisters, is hope!
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are here to make me more Christ-like, not give me an easy life, and just like a Navy SEAL, I’m in for a world of hurt. Not because instructors or God is mean. No. Quite the opposite. The instructors what to make sure each SEAL is the best he can be so that he survives and helps bring everyone home. There is a point to the suffering the SEALs endure in their training. There is a point to my trials and suffering. God is loosening my grip on this world, making me holy, and teaching me about Himself. One day, He will bring me home.
We are being trained. That is a hope-filled thought.
I may never have gotten to be a Navy SEAL in this life (that’s another blog post for another day) but, God is training me as a soldier of the Lord in a much bigger war with a much greater Captain.
It’s been a long standing family tradition to go see a movie of my choice around my birthday. Thankfully there is usually something out that I’m very interested in seeing about mid-May.
This year it was Age of Ultron directed by none other than Joss Whedon who is one of my all-time favorite story tellers. I tried to keep my expectations low, but who am I kidding? This is the man who created Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and so many more shows. This is the man I would pick to direct anything I’ve written because he always has the right mix of heart, snark, cheese, and greatness. And, he’s not afraid to kill of characters you love.
But we, me and my husband, aren’t comic book people. Neither of us grew up reading them and we aren’t real fans of the movies. There have been a few that were fun—looking at you Guardians of the Galaxy—but overall neither of us like the Ironman movies, or the Thor movies, or the Captain America movies all that much.
So, what did we think, my man and I? We loved it. We loved it. We loved it. I should, at this point in time, tell you that there are some major spoilers here, so be warned.
First, the movie was fun. It had an excellent balance between character building and action. It had just the right amount of down time and just the right amount of butt-kicking. I was impressed with the growth of each of the Avengers. Whedon didn’t leave them where they were at the end of the last Avengers movie. He took the time to grow each of them. He gave them depth. He wasn’t afraid to showcase how easy it would be for Stark to be a bad guy, how lost Captain America is at times, and how broken Bruce Banner is. He took all these different characters in stride and made sure everyone developed into something richer and deeper.
Second, there have been some raging online by the feminist about the women in this movie. (Lol. Classic case of biting the hand that feeds you. FYI Joss Whedon is generally applauded by feminist for his strong female characters.) After watching the movie, I know why. Joss’ gift with female characters is to make them strong without losing their femininity and staying to true to the female psyche. He never tries to make women men. He always has a good balance of men and women. He always lets them both be strong and weak in different ways which complement each other. I have always loved how he handles women.
This movie is no different. Black Widow is her normal amazing assassin self and yet we get to see such a gentle side of her when she’s helping the Hulk. This mighty warrior woman is beautiful because she is the Hulk’s perfect helper. She doesn’t just tramp around hating on men—though she has some really great lines about picking up after the boys. She is the only one able to calm the Hulk down and she doesn’t belittle that gift or see it as beneath her to be his helper in that way.
The second great female in the movie is (AND PLEASE DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE) Hawkeye’s wife. This is a woman who lives out on her own with a husband gone much of the time and in danger raising two kids and expecting a third. If she’s not a strong woman, I don’t know who is. She also gives a subconscious kudos to the amazing wives of men in the military and law enforcement. What I love about her is she doesn’t tell Hawkeye to stop fighting. I hate nothing more than women who tell their men to stop fighting when there’s a war going on. She tells him that they need him and he needs to go. She is what Hawkeye is fighting for, what they’re all fighting for. She is the safe house. Do you know how much strength it takes as a women to be a safe house? Many thanks to Whedon for not forgetting the rest of the women out there who don’t get to be Black Widow, who just get to be a wife and mother. Thank you for honoring that and showing it as amazing.
Third, the movie brought back the idea of super heroes fighting for the everyman. Many of the most recent superhero movies seem to have forgotten the idea of rescuing the little old lady’s cat out of the tree while in the middle of fighting crime. They’ve forgotten the idea of the superheroes being good guys who fight for the little guys. In most of the movies, everyday people were expendable for the sake of bigger effects. My husband said that watching Ultron was the first time he’s seen Superheroes rescue people since the original Superman movies.
Being Joss Whedon, this was done with a wonderful mirroring technic. The end battle is all about rescuing everyone. It’s about the Avengers proving they aren’t monsters by rescuing families, women, and kids even while they’re dealing with the bigger problem of Ultron’s droids. Captain America leads the charge in being unwilling to sacrifice the life of the innocent to save the world. That’s what makes super heroes awesome. They can actually do that. They can save the world and find the lost child, and keep people from falling off bridges. That’s why we love their stories.
The mirroring occurs when we see that the Twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, are bad guys because their parents were killed in a war. No one watched out for the innocent families and so their parents died. This led them down a path which ultimately made them villains. When the Avengers come to save the world, they make sure there are no casualties that will create more villains. They make sure the people are safe.
The second way it’s mirrored is when the Hulk and Ironman duke it out. They destroy a city without caring one wit about the people who live there. Ironman sees this as collateral damage, but it eats Bruce Banner alive. He doesn’t want to kill innocent people because of his powers. He wants to help them. These mirroring elements are excellent character building and storytelling technics.
For the first time in a long time, I watched a movie that did what fantasy does best. It raises the stakes in everyday life to something world changing while not losing the everyman. Hawkeye was given a great role in being the person we could all connect to who had to fight without powers, but still fight. Every morning when our husbands go to work and when moms take care of their children and we live our lives, however that has played out, we can see ourselves as being these superheroes who willingly fight for their homes, families and way of life against a bigger and mightier foe.
Warriors don’t fight to just kill enemies, they kill enemies to save their friends and family. That’s what makes a warrior: the reason they fight. That’s what made this movie great.
There are some wonderful scenes in this movie. (Looking at you Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch) There is some wonderful storytelling in this movie, but ultimately it’s about people who are unbelievably powerful stooping to take care of the smallest and weakest of us. Yes, I am looking at this through Christian colored glasses, but doing so let’s me see the Christianity that pervades all of life, for what better echo could you have than someone mighty reaching out a hand to someone low.
Favorite Quotes: “You get hurt, hurt ‘em back. You get killed, walk it off.”
After Age of Ultron, we rented Fury. It’s my second time to see this movie and I’m going to try to put into words how much I love this film.
I didn’t expect to like it. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t. The previews made it look like a bad historical fiction with tanks sneaking around behind enemy lines. It’s not that at all. It is good historical fiction. It is about a tank crew asked to hold the line at the end of the war to defend some cooks and doctors from a group of SS soldiers. The tank crew heads to the crossroads but encounters a tiger tank on the way reducing them from four tanks to one. This one tank must decide to hold the line or run away leaving their weaker brothers exposed to attack. They stand.
The movie is dark, gritty, gross, violent, crude and not for the weak of stomach. It doesn’t really pull any punches about being at the end of WW2 in a tank crew. It shows what sort of barbarianism is required in war. But, it also shows a sergeant doing his best to prepare a boy for war. It shows how hard it was for recruits to come in and replace soldiers who had died. It shows how eaten alive these men were by what they had to do.
The first act of the movie is so tense it’s hard to watch. You wonder if this movie has any redeeming value. What’s the point of watching a bunch of men bully each other and kill each other? What’s the point? The value is hinted at in the two times War Daddy (based on the real War Daddy and Audie Murphy—both Texans) steps away from his men to regain his self-control. He loves his men and will do anything, even very hard things, to keep them alive.
Again, warriors don’t fight to just kill enemies, they kill enemies to save their friends and family. That’s what makes a warrior: the reason they fight. That’s what made this movie great.
This movies turning point of grace is when the four men on War Daddy’s tank crew decide to stick with him and fight even though they know they can’t win and they will die. From this point on, the movie is nothing but a tear-jerker as the men spend their final moments bonding, fighting, and dying together.
I can’t say enough how amazing this movie is. I loved the character Bible who loved the sinners around him. I love War Daddy who taught a kid to be a man so he could save his life even when the kid hated him for it. I loved the men bonding around the boy and accepting him as one of their own. I loved the bully who proved himself a friend.
Looking at this through the lenses of Christianity, we are reminded that war, even spiritual warfare, or maybe especially spiritual warfare is dark and gritty. We should also be reminded that those over us, our elders, may seem tough/harsh but they have our wellbeing in mind and they carry their own scars. We would do well to heed them because they love us.
There is nothing about this dirty, rough, gross, beautiful and amazing film that I didn’t love. This movies is why I love war movies the best. And Fury is probably up there with Lone Survivor, Band of Brothers, and We Were Soldiers for me.
“Best job I ever had.”