From the Rev: Tale of a Real Man
Last Sunday, I had the privilege of sharing at the Year-end Banquet for the Valor Christian Boys Soccer Program. For 2017, our spiritual theme had covered different aspects of what comprised a real man of faith. As a final example, I shared this story with the players, parents, and coaches assembled.
As he lay there, with his worst, life-enemies closing in on his position, he looked around. Two of his brothers were already dead. His father, somewhere nearby, had been fatally wounded in the fighting. He could only hear him cursing and calling out. The searing pain that coursed through his body was only briefly abated as he tried to close his eyes.
His life flashed briefly in front of him like a movie screen.
Some 60 miles from this spot, was My first success. The first time that I felt like a real man. Father had let me lead 1,000 men — and not just any men, special forces. 1/3 of the soldiers in the army, dad had entrusted to me. It was my first true test. 1,000 men; we had taken out the symbol of oppression that encroached on our land. It was a small test, but a good test.
The real adversity was to come — sure enough; their enemy lined up with all their might and force. But real men deal with adversity. Our measly force of 3,000 men had dwindled to 600. Dad’s leadership was poor, but there wan’t much I could do much about it. Dad didn’t really believe in God; didn’t really trust Him.
This is where I felt different. I mean, I know we were outnumbered. I know that the odds were severely against us. We were trapped, boxed in. But, God was on our side. I couldn’t just wait around. I needed to act. Someone needed to.
Looking back now, my faith at the time seemed young, immature, but fresh and imaginative at the time. I remember telling my buddy before deciding to go off on my own and attack a scouting party,
Maybe God will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when he sets his mind to it.
Okay, so maybe that hadn’t been the smartest moment of my career, but God did something with it. The confusion I had caused threw the enemy into a panic. They started killing each other and running around like chickens with their heads cut-off. It was a victory! A real “David and Goliath”, underdog moment.
Thirsty. I am so thirsty and hungry.
He could hear movement around his position. His ribs were crushed. It was difficult to breathe. It was just a matter of time until he was either discovered or until his last breath. Funny, how hungry he felt.
If he’s honest, his father was a real jerk. Not a great example of a man of faith. He would use religion when it was convenient. He would at times appear to be really devoted to God and at other times he was just a mess. But that was dad — as his eyes rolled back into his head and he winced from the pain of his wounds, he drifted off again, to another memory. A memory of when he had been hungry during battle.
We had been after their enemies. On patrol, we were running and gunning, after our enemies all day. It was like a soccer match when you’re down 2-0 and you’re chasing the game. Everyone was tired and lagging, feet dragging and doggone sore. Halftime! It wasn’t orange slices and Hi-C, like mom used to bring. But it would have to do — fresh honey. And he had some. Instantly, he felt refreshed and brighter. He felt like he could go on for days — like Legolas, Gimli, and Aragon chasing down orcs. He was ready for battle. But the delightful, honey-induced smile quickly wore away as his teammate came over to him:
You’ve done it now — your father said no food today until we’ve wiped out the enemy!
You have got to be kidding! What an ogre. What a troublemaker. My dad — what does he know? If the men could have eaten today, we would have had this thing wrapped up in no time.
The honey ordeal had encouraged the men that day. Here was a leader worth following. Here was a leader that you didn’t mind fighting alongside. It wasn’t until later that evening that the next test came.
Dad, got religious all of the sudden. He started asking God for direction, but God was silent.
Somethings wrong! Someone has sinned! I want every officer to step forward. We need to find out who sinned. I swear, by God, that whoever did will die, even if it’s my own son!
Nobody. Said. A. Word.
They never tell you that sometimes a smile, even on your death bed, is sometimes the most satisfying thing despite the pain. Of course, back then, he didn’t have a smile on his face listening to his father swear up and down and make oaths that whoever had sinned was going to die. He was a tad bit afraid.
Realizing now, daddy was a bit of an abuser. The back drop of his leadership qualifications? He was chosen for his looks. He was tall. He stood above most men. He looked like a leader. Had the voice like a leader. But in truth, he didn’t really know how to lead those around him. He wasn’t a real man. The proof was that few actually ever followed him — sure they obeyed his commands, but out of fear, not out of respect.
But the people had respected his son, they stepped up that day. When the truth about eating became known and as dad got up in his face, murder in his eyes, it was the people who intervened.
He won a great victory today! Why should he die? In fact, as surely as God is alive, not one hair on his head will be harmed. God helped him do something great today.
And that’s how you know if you’ve earned the respect and encouraged and have led well the people around you — when you’re in trouble, they step up for you, they speak up for you.
There was no one left, though, now. The people had fled this latest battle. His teammates, his soldiers had been slaughtered on this mountain. The fighting had been fierce. Faithful to his father and brothers, he had stood his ground. He had fought valiantly. They all had, really, for the most part. He could hear his father, whimpering now:
Kill me. Shoot me. Help me die before they overrun our position.
Sure enough. Dad still wasn’t taking responsibility. But then again, he never really had. I tried to sit up. Tried to look at father, one last time. Tried to figure out whatever had gone wrong.
I had been in line to succeed dad. In fact, many were saying that I would have made a better leader. Many said that he demonstrated what it took to be a real man. But his father had really made a mess of things and the chaplain told him:
God’s favor is gone. This company, this enterprise won’t last. There is going to be nothing for your family to inherit. No legacy. To obey God is better than to make your appearance at church and put your money in the church coffers.
That was a dark day.
It was the day that I realized I wouldn’t be taking over anything and I wondered if there would be anything left — of what we had built up, what we had fought for, what we had invested in, of even our family.
But you know what, God is good. It was probably the best thing that could have happened.
The command had come:
Wipe out the enemy. Totally destroy them.
Pretty simple game plan. No, not to just go out and score a couple goals and win the game. We are talking totally wipe out and embarrass them. 7-0, 8-0. Don’t let them get a sniff. Remind them that they can’t even play the game; can’t even get on the scoreboard.
And we were doing it, too. Until pride got the best of dad. He wanted to gloat. He let them hang around bit. He toyed with them. Like passing the ball around and shouting “Ole!” or dribbling the whole field. He deviated from the gameplan. He wanted what he wanted, not what God wanted.
When the chaplain called him out, he tried to ask for forgiveness. But it was, too late. Things would never be the same.
Not long after, he showed up. To be honest, none of us thought anything of him. He had these rosy cheeks. He looked more like he belonged in the boys choir than on a battlefield. He could sing, though, that was the funny part.
In fact, his music was so good and hip, that even my father fell in love with it. He said he just felt better after listening. So, tough day in the office? Concert at night. Trouble with the Lord. Concert at dinner. Big party to celebrate the merger? What better way to cap off the festivities than to bring the hottest show in town around?
Not only was he a big-time pop star, He was one bad, mother (blankity-blank, beep, beep) on the battlefield. I recall meeting him the day after he had pulled off the biggest upset known to mankind. Because of him we all use the phrase “David and Goliath” to describe the underdog story when you are severely outnumbered.
He had just finished talking with my dad and introducing himself. He didn’t prance around all pretentious. There was something about him. His heart — he seemed to have a faith stronger than my own. His leadership — he rallied people around him like no one I had ever seen before, including myself. He had a real respect for others and for himself. In fact, before he went out for his big battle to face an impossible test, we all tried to outfit him with the latest tech and gear. He politely declined after trying it out — said it just wasn’t him.
That day, after speaking to my father. I knew that I had found my true brother. My deepest and dearest friend — I virtually gave him the clothes off my own back. That’s how much he impacted in me in a single moment.
It wasn’t long after that, my sister got the hots for him.
She would run around the house, saying his name, dreamy eyed. She would sing his music. She was always asking dad or me if we could get his autograph or have him around more. She was absolutely smitten. Like a teenage girl with her boy band crush. (Well, she was a teenage girl and he was a solo boy band, but she still had that crush). They actually ended up getting married! All in the family!
But it pissed my dad off something fierce. He was already feeling jealous about him. Because my dad didn’t really believe in God or trust Him, I think he let the devil get in his head space. Dad tried to get me and a few others to assassinate him after the wedding. He was a threat to my dad. Luckily, I headed things off. But he kept trying — he plotted behind my back, tried even to get my sister into the conspiracy. She was weak. Just as afraid of dad as everyone else I guess. Her marriage won’t last. I can’t see it working out now that I think about it.
Funny, what comes to your mind at the end.
Aggghhh! Not long now. At least I won’t be captured and tormented. I can’t see anything. The sounds of battle grow faint. I can barely hear anything. I can barely feel anything, just pain. What I would give to see him one more time. If only he were here, maybe the battle wouldn’t have gone this way. But at least I have that last moment, that last promise.
He was pretty keen to the fact that dad wanted to kill him. I didn’t want to believe it. I had talked dad out of it once and I thought it was a non-issue. But it wasn’t.
It happened right before one of our New Year’s Eve parties. We came up with a plan, a test. If my father was okay with him being gone, then everything was okay. But, if he became enraged at his absence…the signal was three shots. Sure enough, dad was murderous. Bloody-murder and I’ll have his neck, and all that. Dad wanted him dead. Finally, my eyes were opened.
I went out to the field where he was hiding — three signal shots. It was over. I would never see him again after that night.
Our last moment together was a time for tears, our friendship was so deep and never had it been so tested. I learned through David how real men can be real friends to each other. He taught me how real men can serve one another. He promised. We promised. We pledged to each other and to our children and to our children’s children. I know he will do it. I know he’s a man of his word. I know my crippled son will have a future. He’ll be protected. Looked after. Cared for. That’s David — my friend, soon to be king. How I wish he were here in these last moments, just see him one last time. Tell him how much I love him, how much he means to me.
Evening came. We don’t know when Jonathan breathed his last breath. You can read his story beginning in I Samuel 13 — 31. The next day when Philistine soldiers came to strip the dead, they found Jonathan and his brothers and King Saul. Gloating, they took Saul’s head with the sword and impaled his body and the body of his sons on the city walls of Beth Shean.
My encouragement to the boys and to their parents was to examine the life and friendship of David and Jonathan. Each demonstrated in unique ways different aspects of being real men of faith. Their depth of love for one another and for God serve as an example to us all.
Do you have a Jonathan? Are you a David to someone?
— Rev Brad Kenney