As I returned from a sunrise walk, an elderly man called out, “How far do you walk?” When I told him, he said he walked that same distance. Then he shared his story, revealing he has walked a much longer, harder road than I.
Jim was a United States Navy Seal, an expert in the lethal use of knives. In 1969 he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. His torturers caged him partially under water. He survived by eating bugs and grasses. The enemy tried to make him divulge military secrets. After rolling up his sleeve, Jim tapped the metal plate protecting a broken bone that will never heal; he lifted his hat and showed me the place where another plate replaced crushed skull; he showed me the tip of a finger where bone had been reconstructed with steel. After he was rescued, he spent one year in the hospital recovering.
When he finally arrived home, his wife told him about the dignitaries who attended his funeral and the medals he had earned, including two purple hearts and the congressional medal of honor. She also told him he was no longer welcome. Thinking he was dead, she had married another man. She said, “You won’t hurt him, will you?” He said, “No, I’m too tired.”
He told me the medals of honor don’t stop the nightmares that haunt him every night.
Through tears, I said, “Thank you for your service to me, to all of us.” He said, “Don’t cry for me, I have made my peace.” I prayed aloud, looking him in the eyes, “God, thank you for the privilege of hearing Jim’s story. Please bless him every day for the rest of his life.” He said, “I am blessed,” and showed me a photograph of his daughter and two grandchildren.
On and off throughout that day and night, I prayed that Jim would be relieved of his nightmares. When I walked the next morning, I realized the reason his story had moved me. So many aspects of it reflect the greatest story.
I remembered another tortured and imprisoned man’s vision of Jesus: not the one where Jesus, holding a lamb, looks down with gentle, compassionate eyes, but the vision of Jesus, as a victorious warrior. He’s dressed in white with a sash of honor across his chest. His hair is white; his eyes fiery. And, I’ve always wondered about this in the past, his feet are bronze. Jesus’ once scarred feet shine. Could it be that Jesus’s feet were so destroyed by the torture he endured that he now has metal, prosthetic feet? His bronze feet forever remind us of his sacrifice for us, just like Jim’s scars helped me to understand the sacrifices he made. And, like Jim, Jesus’s weapon is a sharp blade. The glorified Jesus, almighty warrior, continues to be on active duty in spiritual battles, fighting on our behalf, powerful enough to overcome any enemy.
There is nothing, no terrifying memory, no vindictive person, no dark spirit able to overcome him. This Jesus longs to walk beside each one of us as our defender and friend.
The glorified Jesus, almighty warrior, continues to be on active duty in spiritual battles, fighting on our behalf, powerful enough to overcome any enemy. (I found this image on Pinterest with no credit given.)
Application: Dear friend, do you have a terrifying memory or deep regret that haunts you? Have you thought that you need to live with the consequences of past hurts? Weary friend, I long for Jesus to set you free.
What experiences have you had in the past that caused or continue to cause you suffering? How are you taking steps towards recovery? If you have not found relief, who might you ask to help you?
Warfare Praying: Biblical Strategies for Overcoming the Adversary by Mark I. Bubeck