The field that lay before them was one of bomb blast craters and land mines. They could see their fallen brother just a few yards away from them. The brother had been out doing some reconnaissance and was making his way back to the safety of the foxhole, when the enemy cast a small fragmentation grenade, landing two feet in front of him. He couldn’t dodge it in time and when it detonated, the fragments ripped into his lower legs, causing him to fall to the ground, barely missing a land mine. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the concussion from the fall shook the ground enough to cause another land mine to go off near him, showering him with dirt, debris, and still more fragments. When he fell, all the brothers could do was to watch in horror as their brother collapsed in a heap of bleeding carnage; there wasn’t much hope for the brother.
You would have never thought something so small, so insignificant, could cause so much annihilation; yet, it does. The brother wasn’t trying to let pride dictate to him and get in his way, nor was he trying to let the courage of cheapened masculinity make him into a martyr. All he wanted to do was make it back to his brothers. He was in agony and his brothers could feel the anguish.
When the dust had settled and the explosions ceased for the moment, the brothers risked their own lives and ran out to get their fallen kinsman, and returned him to the safety of the fold.
And so it goes, for all men who have ever been gravely wounded from the grenades and land mines that go off in the deepest recesses of our souls, and for those brothers who will stand by their side and administer aid and comfort to the fallen, for they are their stretcher-bearers.
Stretcher-bearers are men that go out into the thick of the battle to bring back fallen friends and bring them to safety of an aid station. They help save a lot of men who would otherwise eventually die on the battlefield.
In the gospels of Mark and Luke, there’s a story of such men getting their friend on a stretcher to see the Master. The story briefly is that they couldn’t get their friend to see Jesus through the front door, because the house where he was staying was full to capacity. They devised a plan to lift their friend up on the roof, make a hole in the roof, and lower him down to Jesus’ feet. And that’s what they did.
Jesus not only healed a brother that day, He restored a life as well.
I had a fragmentation grenade explode in my soul when we were going to adopt a newborn child five months ago, and it was not until recently that a land mine went off near me where I had fallen. The grenade hit when the birth mother of the child we were adopting changed her mind. The land mine was when I looked at the pictures of the first night we brought him home and saw the smile on my face.
After a loving confrontation with my wife about me taking one of the pictures to work, I found myself laying face down in a battlefield somewhere between immense grief and anguish. I found myself asking these two questions: How do you cry, when the pain is so deep, that there are no tears? And how do you pray, when the pain is so deep that there are no words?
We had him in our home and before Judy and I could teach him anything, he was out of our arms, out of our home, and out of our lives. I didn’t want to deal with the fact that I had let my heart be captured by someone so little so quickly, so I put it off. Judy fell apart when the child was taken from our home. I had to be strong for her. I had to be her stretcher-bearer. I could always deal with my issues later. That’s the way I was raised. I have a feeling that’s the way most of us men were raised. That’s sad, because it’s a lie that we shouldn’t be buying into.
It’s bad enough that we are fighting an enemy that is throwing all hell at us, and the last thing we need in our lives is inauthentic masculinity putting on a face that says “it didn’t hurt” when in reality the arrow may have pierced our heart and we’re bleeding profusely.
Of course, it hurts; it hurts like hell. Probably though, most of the hurt that we men face is aguish over past regrets - would’ve done that, should’ve said this, could’ve been there; but remember we’re in a war, not against flesh and blood but against forces of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12) There are no John Waynes in the brotherhood of Christianity: For when one hurts, we all hurt. When one rejoices, we all rejoice.
Like I said before, the land mine exploded when I saw the pictures of my then son. Lying wasted on the field of my personal Antietam, I called on two close friends to bring me their stretcher. They gave me comfort that night with some excellent counsel and soulful prayers. They laid me at the feet of the Master, and He has begun to heal me and restore me. I love these two men of God and feel quite honored to call them brothers.
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Thank you James for the openness of your words. You are right, we do hide our feelings too far down inside us. And when we have stuffed too many in we end up vomiting a confused jumble of them all over the unlucky person (usually our wives!) who happens to be in the way. But what is a man to do? We do have to be the strong one- yet sometimes I feel more like the child who really needs a hug... Peace Brother, Pawel