The movie Shenandoah is set during the American Civil War. It’s a moving story of a Southern family caught up in the conflict of the day. The patriarch of the family, Charlie Anderson, continually shuts down the urges of his sons who want to join the war. Charlie wants to remain neutral and uninvolved until the war actually touches his family.
Until the war, they had a pretty good life. The family owned a large farm; the six sons were all grown men and they had made the farm profitable. They were comfortable and beginning to marry and start families of their own. The father was a widower, but between seeing his children grow up strong, happy, and wise and seeing the farm prosper, he was content with his life.
One day the youngest son, Boy, goes out raccoon hunting with his friend and stumbles onto a Confederate ambush. They turn on their heels and run to get away from the ambush. When they think they’re out of harm’s way, the two boys stop at a stream to get a drink of water. At the stream, Boy finds an old rebel cap (the Confederates were rebels) and absentmindedly puts it on. Not a minute later, a Union patrol happens upon the boys and they mistake Boy as a rebel soldier. The Union soldiers take him as a prisoner of war.
His friend escapes and runs back to the farm to tell Charlie what had befallen his son. Now, all of a sudden, the war concerns him very much. He goes from being a bystander of the war to throwing himself all out into the fray to rescue his son. He tells his sons, “It’s our war now.” The fight became personal. He was not taking up arms because one government or another urged him to do so, but because if he did not take action, the life of someone he loved was in danger.
Once he made the decision that this was his war, he didn’t need anyone to tell him what to do. He didn’t need to be motivated; fighting for what he loved was all the motivation he needed.
I can identify with Charlie Anderson and the “it’s my war now” stance that he takes in the story. I always knew of Jesus, and I think I loved Him, but it took me a while to really cast my lot in with Him, so to speak. If life is comfortable for you and you can avoid the hardship that accompanies trying to live a believer’s life … well, who wants hardship, right?
But here’s the thing. Satan is out to hinder, thwart, and stop God’s plan for mankind, and he’s already marked God’s children as his enemies. In response, we’re called to “arm up” spiritually1 and make a difference in the fight through our living example.
But all of that means nothing until we make the choice to “make it our war.” Once the battle becomes personal, then, like Charlie Anderson, we won’t just be casual observers of what’s going on around us, but rather we’ll be ones who are determined to make a difference.
It starts with understanding why little decisions matter. Like a soldier trains daily, whether he’s deployed or not, we need to be active in our spiritual preparation. Our “missions” will probably be everyday things most of the time. Mine are. Things like being a peacemaker, being mindful, taking time to look out for the needs of others, and lots of stuff like that. That’s okay. I understand that even those little things have an impact on the overall war effort.
The point is that Ihave made the choice to devote my efforts to the cause of Christ. It’s not something that I do because my parents did or didn’t, or because my friends do or don’t do. It’s something I do because God’s fight has become my fight and I want to ensure as many wins as I can for our side.
When you do nothing you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.—Maya Angelou (1928–2014)
My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results … but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it. Win or lose, I admire those who fight the good fight.—George R. R. Martin (b. 1948)
1. See Ephesians 6:10–18.