Colonel Robert G. Shaw: [points at the flag bearer] If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry on?
[Thomas steps forward]
Cpl. Thomas Searles: I will.
Colonel Robert G. Shaw: I’ll see you in the fort, Thomas.
This exchange happens as the 54th Massachusetts Regiment prepares to attack Fort Wagner at the end of the 1989 movie Glory. As the soldiers at the head of the attack, it is certain that the number of casualties will be high. Yet Colonel Shaw, played by Matthew Broderick asks this question of his men to see who among them would step forward and take the lead in the battle. The fact that Searles is the man to reply is brings a storyline full circle. A free domestic living who has known Shaw since childhood, his genteel nature has labeled him the worst soldier in the regiment. He finally proves himself in battle and despite being wounded, refuses to leave the regiment as they head into this final fight. Through his bravery, he is redeemed to the unit, to Shaw, and also to himself.
By itself, this creates a powerful moment. But the story doesn’t end there. The reason Shaw even asks this question is because he is denied by his first choice. Private Trip, played by Denzel Washington is a man who is driven to fight by a deeply rooted anger. He wants revenge for every wrong that has ever been perpetrated against him. His rage buffers him from friendship, camaraderie, and even civility. So when Shaw wants to recognize his valor by allowing him to carry the colors, he refuses, leaving Shaw to find another flag-bearer – the job Thomas volunteers to take if the need should arise.
And so the regiment sets off across the beach toward the battle that would be their destiny. The fighting is intense, leaving them to hide and wait to attack under cover of darkness. In order to rally the men out of hiding and into an attack, Shaw and the flag-bearer head up a sand dune toward fort. The man holding the flag falls, so Shaw grabs it and continues his charge. He advances only a few steps before he too is fatally wounded. The men of the 54th take in the scene, having been suddenly thrust into a moment of despair. Their leader is dead, they are under attack. If they go forward they might die. If they run away they might die. If they stay put, they will die. It’s one of those moments that seem to last for an eternity. Suddenly, Private Trip, the last man anyone would have expected, leaps to his feet, lifts up the flag and screams out the only command he would ever give, extolling the men to “Come on!” Inspired, the men rise and begin their assault on the fort, but without their best soldier by their side. Despite years of hurt and anger building up a hate for life, Trip set it aside and answered the call.
The life of a Christian is not unlike this scene. Think back over the years of your life. Consider the hurts you’ve experienced, the mistakes you’ve made. Satan uses these things to dupe us into following the footsteps of one of the two soldiers. Some of us are like Thomas – looking at ourselves as weak and unworthy, incapable of doing what needs to be done because of our own insufficiencies. Some of us behave more like Trip. We hold onto every injury, every hurt, every misfortune and use our anger as an excuse to refuse to answer the call. This can trip up any believer, but it is especially damaging when it happens in the lives of Christian men. Too many churches are filled with Thomases and Trips – men who disappear in weakness or leave in anger. Either way, they don’t step up, don’t answer the call to be the godly men that the church, their children, their spouses, and their Heavenly Father needs them to be.
Consider the words of Ephesians 4:1-6…
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
God has given us clear directions on how was should live our lives for Him. Our lives do not come with a 100% happiness guarantee. We face struggles, hardships, shortfalls, and danger. In many ways, we struggle to feel the freedom that Christ provides because we get ourselves trapped in the prison of shame and guilt that our sin has built around us. But by His hands, through the death of His Son and the encouragement of the Spirit, we can choose to stand, to submit, to lead. May we find the strength we need to live lives according to His purpose so that we will rise to meet every challenge we face in pursuit of the destinies God has laid out for us to pursue.
A Mile in My Schu’s is featured on www.blogsurfer.us