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Posts Tagged ‘Navy Seals’


“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

Some people don’t need to enter anywhere to abandon hope. Some people can’t seem to abandon hope no matter how bad the circumstances.

I was listening to an interview with a former career Navy Seal. Part of the unspoken agenda of “Hell Week” is to bring the candidates to the point of despair, the point of giving up or thinking they are going to die. For him it was the pool. When you face death and lose your fear of death you build a wise soldier (not a reckless soldier). This builds the attitude of hope, so to speak, the idea that any problem or situation can be solved when we work together. Even if it means you or your team mate may die in the process.

There is something there to help us understand what is should mean to be a Christian. We have faced death & condemnation and been delivered by Christ. We should no longer fear death and live in hope thru the living Christ who has overcome the world.

But … just as not everyone is wired to be a Seal, not every Christian is wired to, or called to be, a martyr.

Augustine hits on this. Sort of.

In Homily 33 on the Gospel of John he said this:

“The Lord is gentle, the Lord is longsuffering, the Lord is tender-hearted; but the Lord is also just, the Lord is also true. You are being granted time for correction; you, though, love putting it off more than putting it right.”

We all tend to fixate on one or two attributes of God, the ones that fit our general temperment. This puts us at risk. Augustine posits this in the fact that God is more than the attributes we fixate on. He is longsuffering AND just; tender-hearted AND just. The true God shocks us at times. He’s not what we want Him to be. He isn’t less, but more than we want Him to be (to steal a Kellerism).  When God revealed Himself to Moses (Ex. 33-34) He revealed both His abundant mercy and His persistent justice.

“Because God is tender-hearted, God is good, God is gentle. These people are endangered by hope.”

Those fixated on God’s gentleness are often endangered by hope. They forget God’s justice and holiness and think they have forever and a day to repent.

“Endangered by despair, however, are those who have fallen into grave sins, thinking that they can no longer be forgiven, even if they repent, and see themselves as certainly destined for damnation. They thus say to themselves,’We are already going to be damned; why not do whatever we want?'”

They are fixated on the justice and holiness of God and do not see His mercy, goodness, compassion and patience. They veer into despair when they sin as if they have exhausted God’s mercy.

“Despair kills these, the others are killed by hope. The mind, the spirit, fluctuates between hope and despair. Be on the watch lest hope kill you and, while pinning your hopes on mercy, you come under judgment; be on the watch as well lest despair kill you, and, while assuming you cannot be forgiven for the grave sins you have committed, you refuse to repent and run into the judgment of Wisdom, who say, I too will laugh at you ruin (Prov. 1:26).”

While we must embrace hope, we should beware of of any hope that says I don’t need to repent. At times we must despair, but beware of any despair that says “there is no grace left for me.”

Each of us have a tendency toward hope or despair. This is not absolute. Hopeful people can experience despair and despairing people can experience hope. But you will have a tendency toward one that poses a danger to you as you face your sin. As a result you will have to spend more time meditating on the opposite attributes of God. Those who despair need to consciously fixate on God’s mercy and patience. Those who “indulge” in excessive hope (one that puts off repentance presuming on mercy) need to fixate on God’s justice (not to the exclusion of mercy).

Perhaps this is part of the current debate over law and gospel with regard to sanctification in Reformed circles. Perhaps some are fixating on mercy. Perhaps others, fixated on justice, emphasize the role of the Law. Some are abounding in hope, and others while not despairing, warn against a superficial view of grace that forgets God’s justice as also revealed in the Gospel.  Just a thought.

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I’ve been wanting to read Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 since hearing Marcus talk about it on the Glenn Beck show one day while doing hospital visitation.  It is a moving, and powerful story that I enjoyed greatly.  I recommend people read it to gain a better understanding of how crazy our Rules of Engagement are.  This is the underlying message of Marcus’ account.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about: Operation Redwing was an attempt to capture or kill a high ranking Taliban leader in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2005.  A Seal team of 4 men were dropped into the mountains to locate and attempt to capture him.  They were discovered by some goat herders.  Militarily, you can’t be sure they are not connected with the Taliban and make your presence known so that a much larger force drops on you like a ton of bricks.  With the strange ROE in this War on Terror- terrorists don’t wear uniforms, and may not be holding a rifle- they knew they could face criminal charges while at least being crucified in the press if they killed the goat herders.  They set them free … and only Marcus lived to regret it.  These 4 men took on 150-200+ Taliban soldiers for 90-120 minutes.  Seal Team 10 and a Rapid Response team answered their call of distress, but the helicopter was shot down and all were killed.  Badly wounded, Marcus was able to escape until finally taken in by a village elder who swore to protect him.

It was a very good book and interesting read, but here is what I’d change (as if anyone cared):

  • Move the material about ROE and the press to a separate chapter.  Since it is interspersed as part of the narrative, it loses some of its rhetorical power to more of a soap box feel.
  • Double check the material on the training.  I was confused with varying accounts of how many guys dropped out when and how long various things took place.  I thought they might be errors, but I’m not sure.

This does not diminish what Marcus is doing here.  It is a book that needs to be written, and read.  Prior to getting to the ill fated mission you hear about Marcus’ background and how he and his twin brother were preparing to become Seals even as a teens.  You gain a better understanding of how difficult it is to become a Seal- the most elite fighting force in the world.  And you learn about how the press bungled the post-battle coverage.  You learn about the mammoth vigil that took place spontaneously at his parents’ ranch, and the generosity of so many fellow Texans.

In describing the battle itself, I wondered if this Texan was telling some tall tales.  It just seemed incredible to read what these 4 men did, and persevered despite serious injuries.  But it all makes sense when you take into account their training which identifies and selects men who can’t give up.  Their bravery and perseverance humbles me.  If you have half a heart, you too will weep when he is finally rescued, says ‘goodbye’ to his friends and comrades in arms, and is reunited with his distraught family.  You also get a taste of Seal culture, for better or worse (yes, lots of bad language and what I would consider blaspheme from the mouths of men who are Christians).  But you also gain a better understanding of how politics and the mainstream media make the task we ask these soldiers to perform most difficult, put their safety and our in unnecessary jeopardy.

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