06 July 2011

Mortal Combat

No, I'm not talking about the video game; (otherwise I'd have spelled combat with a K) instead, I'm talking about combat in the mortal, or physical, realm.  My husband and I just finished watching The Fighter.  In this movie, a boxer overcomes some intense personal and professional struggles in order to attain the world welterweight title in the 1980s.

Photo by Trista Wynne
I have to say that I have an incredible respect for hand-to-hand combat.  One of the sad trends in zombie movies and books is an intense focus on combat from a distance.  You want to keep the enemy away from you and kill them before you can even recognize their (former) humanity.  As my husband and I slowly work our way through The Walking Dead, (I was attending class when it was on, so we recorded it to watch during summer break) I am delighted to see that zombies are treated humanely. 

When we do warfare in ways that keep the enemy far removed, we begin to imagine that they are simply defined by their status as our enemies.  We forget that they are human.  In this forgetfulness, we too loose our humanity.  All anyone becomes, including us, is an enemy of one kind or another.  Without eye contact and knowledge of the other's background, warfare is of as little consequence as playing a video game.

This, I think, is why I appreciate hand-to-hand combat like boxing, wrestling and the martial arts.  You have to know your opponent.  You study their strengths, weaknesses and family history.  They become as familiar to you as your own hand.  Even in combat that involves swords, you have to get close enough to the enemy to feel their breath, to get their blood on your clothing, to be drenched in their sweat.  You are close enough to lay them on the ground, to hold their hand, to close their eyes and to say farewell.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is about a man named Jacob and his encounter with the God of the universe.  When Jacob has been cast away from his dysfunctional family as a result of his manipulative, thieving ways, he wrestles with a stranger in the wilderness.  This stranger turns out to be the Lord.  Jacob comes away from this hand-to-hand combat with a limp, but a greater understanding of himself, a healthy respect for those around him, and incredible awe at the Lord's willingness to enter into relationship with him and his family.  He no longer takes anyone or anything for granted.  Jacob becomes Israel.

The Bible may not have all of the empirical data that we desire.  It may not be a science manual or an exact representation of history, (then again, what science or historical record doesn't have a slant?) but it is a book about relationship.  It is a record of faith.

Photo by Trista Wynne
In this faith story, we encounter the One who created all things and all people.  We find that we are not alone as we meander through the apparent wilderness of the world today.  Like the sheriff in The Walking Dead, our Lord treats us with dignity and respect.  By entering into our human realm and being willing to receive the worst brutality that our world had to offer, God showed us who we really are.  We are zombies looking for our next meal, and we don't care where it comes from.  But on account of our Lord's willingness to enter hand-to-hand combat, we are slowly realizing what Jacob did so long ago.  We are beginning to understand that God is love.

May this understanding penetrate more than just our minds.  May it enter, and change, our hearts.  May we come to know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and may we learn to truly love, in Jesus' name, amen.

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