Make of this what you will. Sometimes parables speak louder than words.
An old man stared back at the soldier as he passed by a mirror, and he stopped humming. It was an old song he hummed, one his forefathers sang, and he particularly liked the chorus which said, ‘there is no glory here, only pain and only tears, only blood and only fear, there is no glory here.’
He didn’t know why he liked the song so much; perhaps because it rang true, but before he could think about it any further, he was drawn back to the face which stared at him.
If not for the eyes, he would not have recognized the haggard, graying man staring at him. Why was he so sorrowful? The soldier wondered. Why did weariness seem to define him, and why did the man in the mirror remind him so much of himself?
The soldier sighed, and went about the task of removing his armor, no longer surprised to see as many arrows and knives sticking out of its back as stuck out of its front. It had sparkled once, this armor of his, back when he was young and new to the ways of war.
He’d been excited when first he was called to serve, he’d heard the stories like other young men of his age, of victories, and epic battles, and valiant warriors who though outnumbered fought until there was no enemy left to fight.
He even used to notch his sword once upon a time, reveling in counting the number of enemies he’d felled on a given day, but with age came wisdom, and wisdom dictated that there would always be another battle, another skirmish, another enemy, until there wouldn’t, and in that moment none of the things he saw as badges of honor would matter much anymore.
The battle had intensified of late, the enemy had breached the walls of the citadel, and now it was no longer a battle of bows and arrows and spears – it was a battle of sword and knife, and fists and boot heels. Hand to hand, man to man, doing all you could just to hold your ground, and if need be go down swinging to protect those you were sworn to defend.
Each day seemed harder than the last, and each day fewer men showed up on the battlefield, and more showed up on the sidelines. Perhaps guilt over their cowardice drove them, or just something as banal as boredom, but most on the sidelines called out to those on the battlefield shouting advice, or orders... ‘advance, advance, lunge, parry, faster, quicker, bring your shield up, keep your head down.’
Thankfully there were still those few scattered among the throngs of spectators who brought out a cup of water, or bandaged a wound when the battle waned for a breath, those who saw the battle for what it was, and not a romanticized version of what they imagined it to be.
Why couldn’t they see, that if not for the duty and the calling, if not for the hope of future glory, every soldier on the battlefield would have thrust his sword into the earth, laid his shield beside it, and walked away long ago?
Some who still took to the battlefield each day knew each other only by reputation, while others among them had formed bonds of friendship. To the last, they were men of valor, bound by the calling, and compelled to duty by Him who called them to the task at hand.
Thinking of what was, and dreading what is to come, the soldier closed his eyes hoping for a few hours of restless sleep.
Blinking the sun out of his eyes, and gritting his teeth against the pain, the soldier stirred from his slumber. He went about his task with practiced efficiency, an efficiency that can only come about by endless repetition.
He lashed on his armor, every worn strap and cinch sliding into place as though driven home by an otherworldly force, took up his sword, and shield and proceeded to the battlefield once more.
Perhaps this is the day, he thought, swinging his sword as if for the last time, perhaps this is the day I hear ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ And it will have all been worthwhile.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.