Tales from the Darkside

A longer time ago than i would care to remember i was in a car with two friends of mine. We were doing the "guys hanging out thing" when somehow the conversation turned into a banter of Star Wars and the faith of myself and one of the my other friends. We were witnessing to our friend using a contemporary "tool" if you will. For the past week or so i have been contemplating what it means to die to myself. I don't know if i fully understand the passages where Jesus is quoted saying "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, & Luke 9:23) There are many examples of people dieing for others outside of Jesus. Randy Shugart and Gary Gordon are two that immediately came to mind. But what is it that Jesus is calling ME to? In some regards a call to throw yourself in harms way can be easier to bear then the little things that all add up. Please do not misunderstand what i am saying here. I am in now way taking away from the incredible sacrifice of those who have given their lives for another. It is in the end the most that anyone can do for another. But it can be harder making those daily "little" sacrifices. The deferring of your preferences for others. Why do i consider this to be more difficult? Because, at least in my mind, the little things add up over time. The enemy whispers in your ear about the 'fruit' of taking for yourself. And it is in our sinful nature to want and to be selfish. We do not have to teach our children to be selfish. Some take to the teaching of giving and sacrifice easier than others, but even the most generous take for themselves from time to time. This is why things in life are hard. When we take the easy path down range consequences are sure to follow. And I struggle with taking the initiative in my own life. This is true in all things that are worthy of pursuing. In order to succeed routinely one must be willing to do the hard thing and take initiative. One reason Thomas Jonathon Jackson, aka "Stonewall", was so successful was that he was willing to work his men hard in order to seize the initiative and take decisive action. Early on his men complained about the workload. They did not see what he was doing. He has been quoted as saying, "I am obliged to sweat them tonight, that I may save their blood tomorrow." This is best understood by studying Jackson and his "Valley Campaign" of 1862.

YODA: Run! Yes. A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger… fear… aggression. The dark side of the Force are they.

Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.

Ever notice how easy it is to succumb to anger? How quick we react when we have been "wronged"?

LUKE: Vader. Is the dark side stronger?

YODA: No… no… no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.

LUKE: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

YODA: You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

What is hardest is to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are things that need to be painstakingly nurtured, reinforced.

LUKE: I'll try

YODA: Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.

LUKE: I can't believe it.

YODA: That is why you fail.

What is it that holds us back? We know these things (as Christians) intellectually, but why is it that we fail? Because we are inclined towards laziness and selfishness. It causes us trouble, it takes work. We succeed when we put off the old and take on the newness in Christ. When we die to ourselves we no longer care for what we want, but what we can do for others. There is a part in Eric Haney's Book Inside Delta Force that speaks volumes (to me anyway):
All day long, I crossed that mountain from one side to the other.... I would arrive exhausted and breathless at one RV (check point) only to be sent to the next back on the other side I had just come from. The mountain was too big to contour around, and the lay of the was such that I could never anything approximating a direct approach or maintain the hard-earned high ground for any length of time. Never getting anywhere, back and forth across the same mountain. It was a masterful torture. But then I had a revelation. What difference could it possibly make if I crossed back and forth over this mountain until doomsday? A mountain is a mountain, time was time, and route selection was route selection. The only that that mattered was speed and ground made good.... The frustration and mental torture I had been suffering were completely of my own making - and completely within my power to disregard.
- and -
I was physically spent and sore in every part of my body, But as I reflected on what I had undergone, I felt a calm sense of satisfaction and contentment. I had not just survived an ordeal, because survival in a sense if passive. No, I had conquered. But conquered what? I had to think about that a while, and then I realized: myself.
What had Eric Haney realized? That when he no longer minded, it no longer mattered. I think this post better describes yet another aspect of why i admire the samurai so much. The strived to die to themselves every day in order to serve their lord. "If by seeing one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in 'the Way'. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling." (from Haguakure) Am i perfect in this... not by a long shot. But i feel that it is a noble pursuit. Verse for today: Hebrews 9 : 24-28, ESV For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

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