Prepare For Battle

Emily Heyne // Tales From the Trenches


March 19  

Don’t go easy on your partner. You won’t help them that way. In the real world, in a street fight, no one’s going to go easy. You gotta prepare them.” My daughter had a new Taekwondo instructor, and his stern motivational techniques were of a different flavor than her previous teacher, who had won me over with his dad jokes and emphasis on respect and courtesy. 

I recoiled at the thought of my curly-haired, freckled-faced ten-year-old in a street fight. Is this really what I had signed her up for? Street-fight readiness? Aside from being able to shoot paper balls into a trash can with impressive accuracy, lessons in sport, for me, had been applicable in my life largely by way of analogy. But a martial art, as I was learning, is not a sport. Those board-breaking comps are a cover. It is training in the art of war. And as her new instructor reminded us both, the threat looms near.  

While I was still bristling at the thought of such violence, my daughter’s face grew intent and focused, eager to spar with her partner. As I watched her, I realized it is good and right for her to learn that her life is worth defending, and how to do it. As hard as it was to accept that she or any of these bright-eyed children in her class would need to use their knowledge and skills outside of regulated tournaments, I took comfort in the fact that they would be prepared for an encounter with evil. 

I found her instructor’s exhortation to preparedness fitting for Lent and the upcoming Holy Week, but later, when my daughter proudly exclaimed that she knew how to break someone’s arm, I congratulated her and wondered silently, “But do you also know how to call upon the name of the Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer? Are you prepared, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were, to trust the Lord’s power more than your own? Will you be prepared to sing hymns of praise during persecution?”

I have often wondered about moments in the Gospels, when Jesus, surrounded by his enemies, simply eludes them, without any clarification as to how: “Then they [a group of men with stones in hand] tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power” (Jn 10:39).  We are not to assume he put them each in a sleeper hold, as I’m sure my budding martial artist would prefer, but rather, knowing the Scriptures and the power of the Father, he likely–as the order of readings for this Friday seems to insinuate–prayed Psalm 18: 

My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold! Praised be the Lord, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies. The breakers of death surged round about me, the destroying floods overwhelmed me; The cords of the nether world enmeshed me, the snares of death overtook me. In my distress I called upon the Lord and . . . he heard my voice.

Jesus prepared for and fought his enemies with knowledge and trust in the power of Scripture, as the accounts of Holy Week show us. Let us prepare and fight our own battles with the same mighty hope and protection, knowing they are his battles and they are won.

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