A friend and I were debating recently which matters most in the making of a man – the battle, or the becoming; the climactic scene with sword flashing and beautiful damsel hands-clasped back in the castle waiting, or the conditioning when no one sees no crowd cheers and no one is at the dock when your vessel returns from yet another grueling workout.
Rick Warren, Pastor in Lake Forest, California of Saddleback Church – “currently the eighth-largest church in the United States, is perhaps best known for his devotional ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ which has sold over 30 million copies, making Warren a New York Times bestselling author.”
Warren’s website promo declares, “The most basic question everyone faces in life is ‘Why am I here? What is my purpose?’” Evidently Warren raised one of the key concerns many people – 30 million in fact – ask: What should I be about? How will I be remembered – if at all? Am I making a difference?
A certain king of ancient history had this epitaph: “departed, not desired.”
Not really saying much about your accomplishments to have those three words engraved on your tombstone.
So what’s the answer? Is it the battle, or the becoming, that indicates who we are and what our purpose is?
This past July 2 was the 150th anniversary of the defense of Little Round Top outside Gettysburg. With no bullets left, Chamberlain’s troops fixed bayonets and charged down the hill taking twice their number captive. Chamberlain said, “We know not the future, and cannot plan for it much. But we can determine and know what manner of men we will be.”
Our own local JBLM Ty Michael Carter had taken cover in an overrun attempt by enemy troops in Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. During that six-hour battle, Carter returned fire, “resupplied ammunition to fighting positions, provided first aid to a battle buddy, and risked his life to save a fellow soldier who was injured and pinned down by overwhelming enemy fire,” according to press coverage. For his heroism, Carter, 33, “will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama during an Aug. 26 ceremony at the White House, becoming the fifth living Medal of Honor recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Carter said, “A long time ago, I told myself that if I was ever placed in a combat situation that I wouldn’t let fear make my choices for me. Inside, all I thought about was supporting the men in that position.”
The battle would come, actions would be taken, heroism would be seen, lives would be saved, awards would be given but the decision had been made, “a long time ago.”
So, in answer to the question, battle or becoming, which makes the man, what Chamberlain and Carter and others of courage have in common are the development of character needed most for the crisis sure to come.
In his book ‘The Irresistible Revolution,’ subtitled “Living as an Ordinary Radical,” author Shane Claiborne puts it this way, “I am not too concerned of what I’m going to do. I am more concerned of who I’m becoming.”