I recently watched “The Hurt Locker,” a movie chronicling the work of an American Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Iraq. It shows in great detail the dangers our soldiers face every day. I found the movie eye-opening, the story interesting, and the main character – Sergeant First Class William James, a rather interesting person.
James, played by Jeremy Renner, is that classic character that moviegoers love, but would be rather unpopular in real life. He is a rogue soldier – showing a reckless edge that makes him very difficult to work with in a team setting. He frustrates his fellow team members with his brazen disregard for protocol and procedures. This approach makes him tough to work with but it is also what makes him effective. By working on the edge, he is able to set aside the danger and the horrors of his job and simply do it. Seriously, here’s a guy who disarms bombs with the same cool confidence that a banker has while counting coins or a construction worker uses when pounding a nail. As the story progresses, his confidence takes hits, but through it all he manages to keep coming back. We eventually learn why he is the way he is, but what’s interesting is that we don’t discover this motivation until after he has returned home.
For most soldiers, the return home is a time of excitement – an opportunity to receive the reward that comes to a soldier for service to his country. For James, the opposite seems true. We see him alone in a grocery store, pushing a nearly empty shopping cart. His wife comes into the aisle with their son, her cart filled with food. She asks him to grab a box of cereal and meet her at the register. He agrees, but he seems lost, clearly out of his element. He is shown later, cleaning leaves from the gutter. Many soldiers talk about wanting to come home to help take care of the house. Again, he seems distracted – a bad thing on a ladder. I was struck with a strange thought: he was more likely to get hurt on an extension ladder in his front yard than in combat handling a bomb. They show a discussion in the kitchen between him and his wife. He’s telling her about a situation where dozens of people were killed. She listens but gives no reply, no acknowledgement of the strangely violent story he is relating. Instead, she asks him to chop some vegetables for dinner. Finally, we see him talking to his son – just a toddler. Here is where we would expect him to release his past, to embrace his future, and to begin the process of moving forward. That’s what you’d expect. This is what he said:
“You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don’t ya? Yea. But you know what, buddy? As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. With me, I think it’s one.”
It’s at this moment you expect to see him embrace his son, celebrate this life and begin the next chapter. Instead, the next scene is a line of military helicopters landing, troops disembarking, and James returning back to active duty, doing the most dangerous job in the most dangerous place on the planet. This may seem wrong to you or I, but to him, he was simply following his heart to be in the place where he could do the one thing he loved. This may strike us as odd, but as I thought about it, I began to make sense of it and to see a connection between James and the life of a believer.
Putting your trust in the Lord, loving Him above all other things, having confidence in what He says despite what the circumstances show is one of the most important, yet difficult things a Christian can do. In fact, many believers never quite open themselves up to the fullness of what God has in store for them because they can’t fully follow the love they have for God’s word. Family members don’t understand. Friends can’t wrap their minds around it, but when we make God number one, when He is truly first in our lives, God opens doors that we could have never imagined possible. It is in this hope, this assurance, this promise of God spoken over our lives that we place our total focus – and that place becomes the one place where we find ourselves truly fulfilled. Seek His love. Find your place – to the glory of His holy name.
I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:1-3