Faith in foxholes

Let’s leave the fear behind this Lent
January 31, 2006

Remember the funny e-mails we used to send to each other? You know the ones I mean -- the goofy headlines: “Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Investigators Say”, or the lines from earnest student papers: “People drive through on the Interstate and miss seeing the real world -- which is located in Pennsylvania.” The weird product directions: “Remove child before folding stroller.” The grammatical tangles that slip past harried editors: “The Panama Canal is wide enough to accommodate two ships going the same way or one ship going both ways.”

Maybe it’s just me, but there don’t seem to be as many of these as there were, and the few that come always seem to be waving little white flags of apology: “I know you’re busy doing serious and important things, but I thought these were rather amusing and, of course, you can always zap them ....”

Well I love the crazy things, I love them so much I’m going to share some with you, right here in this serious and important publication. Alas -- this batch, which purports to have come from a unit of the Marine Corps, isn’t pure humor. Just translate the following out of the military metaphor and into the daily skirmishes, ambushes and outright battles going on in the church today and you’ll find:

Life Lessons from the U.S. Marines

Don’t look conspicuous; it draws fire.

Never share a foxhole with anyone who is braver than you are.

The diversion you are ignoring is the main attack.

The important things are always simple, the simple things are always hard; the easy way is always mined.

No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection.

Make it hard for the enemy to get in, and you make it hard for yourself to get out.

...and the kicker:

When both sides believe they are about to lose, they are both right.

Hoo-yah! -- the Leathernecks nailed that one, didn’t they? Because when we stop and think about it, isn’t that just what’s happening in the church today? We’re divided, polarized and on the brink of schism. We have already lost -- no matter what happens -- the grace of spiritual generosity that has been a hallmark of Anglicanism almost from its beginnings. And we are afraid.

Sometimes I think I have not learned very much about the church, in spite of several decades of trying. But this I know: The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is fear, and hate is only its stepchild.

So, as we count down the days to Ash Wednesday, as we make our plans for Lent, let us resolve this: that we shall give up fear.
For only when we give up fear can we begin to love. To laugh -- gently, gently -- at one another and ourselves. To raise our banners not for conquest but because they are true and pure and beautiful, and to follow the leading of conscience because only so can we find the heart of truth.

And to praise God that we share our foxholes with so many graced souls who are braver than we are.

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