After having an hour long conversation with a friend about a tough situation he is going through, we decided we needed call it a day. We talked on our way to our trucks yet I parked further away than he did in a different parking lot. He offered me a ride to my truck but I replied without even thinking, “No, I need to walk off the war.” Immediately I thought about Earl Shaffer and his reason for being the first person to uninterruptedly walk the entire Appalachian Trail. In 1948, Earl Shaffer told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II.
I can not imagine what he may have experienced as he fought over seas in WWII. It had to have been tragic enough that he felt the need to get out of his surroundings and be alone for a few months walking in the woods in order to cope with his PTSD. However, what I can understand is my own experience of war, a spiritual war. That spiritual war is one fought spiritually yet transpires physically. Ephesians says,
“ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12)
There is a war every christian must engage in. It is a struggle, a conflict, a strife. We do not just fight but we wrestle as some translations put it. This fight is an effort or a strain. It is not an easy walk in the woods. It is a struggle similar to taking on an eight mile, straight-up-the-mountain, hike with hardly any switch backs with your backpack filled to capacity after leaving your resupply. By the end of the first mile, you feel like scrapping everything in your pack and getting to the top where, hopefully, camp is at.
However you know if you do that, you will loose your much needed supplies to get you through to the next resupply. The mental and physical struggle is difficult to bear. With every step, you question your original idea to get out an hike. You question is it worth it. You consider a phone call home is easier. You weigh whether quitting is noble. Still you trudge along, knowing that you will make it. You just need to make it.
In the same sense, as my friend and I talked, I fought the battle in my spirit to say what was needed to say so that he understood and possibly his life changed however minuscule it may have been. I wanted him to feel encouraged and our spiritual enemy to feel defeated. I wanted to know that what we discussed would make him feel a little closer to God. Although he asked some very good questions, I didn’t have all the answers. And even if I did feel that I had an answer, I may not have said anything discerning that he may not have understood the depth of what it took to grasp the manifold wisdom of God.
So I prayed. I fought spiritual fire with spiritual fire, my spiritual sword against the enemy’s spiritual sword. I fired spiritual bullets towards the enemy while he fired back. It was a war. It was a battle. It was a struggle. It was a wrestle. We licked each other. Wounds were made. Blows were landed. We stood on the battlefield spiritually clobbering each other.
I do believe I got the upper hand. But only momentarily. There will be another fight. Even still as we parted ways, I had to take a minute to walk to my truck. I had to rest from a hard fight. I had to lick my wounds, think about what was said, what should have been said and what should not have been said. I had to assess the fight and decide whether it was fought well or fought poorly. I had to decide to put it in God’s hands and know that I was a good servant of His word. The walk to my truck was a slow hike full of deliberation, meditation and rumination.
I had to walk off the war.