Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fighting to the Death


This post actually isn't about Aragorn, but he's too awesome not to have a picture of...
 In their Ninth season, the original Hawaii Five-O serios released a trippy episode titled “Nine Dragons,” where the good guy Steve McGarrett is kidnapped by the bad guy communist Wo Fat and tortured with drugs and mind control until he denies the United States of America on videotape. It’s also kind of a clunky ep, with some stilted acting and 1970s fashion even more terrifying than the evil communist agents, but one small scene stuck out to me. 

Drugs and mind control...it's a bad day for McGarrett...
 Steve McGarrett is a tough guy and not much gets by him. Seeing him writhing on the floor of his filthy cell, clothes in shreds, fantastic hair all askew, is actually quite disturbing. The fearless leader has been ground down to his breaking point. We watch him get strapped to a spinning chair until he vomits from nausea. We see the commies rip open his sleeve and pump him full of hallucinatory drugs. We grind our teeth as he tries to run but stumbles and falls, overcome with hunger and weakness. Finally, after the bizarre background music and strobe lights fade, Steve is approached by Wo Fat, who presents him with a bowl of rice and tells him “You’ve been a good boy.” The audience gasps. Did Steve cave in? Did he betray the USA? 


 As Wo leaves, Steve looks down at the little bowl of rice in front of him. We know he’s starving, sick, and in horrible pain. He doesn’t know what’s going on, and he can’t remember if Wo Fat forced him to do anything. But with his last bit of strength, he picks up the bowl and heaves it at Wo’s back, shattering it against the steel bars of his cell. It is a small, desperate act of defiance, but it speaks volumes. I’ll never give in to you! You will never win!

 
 Good ol’ McGarrett. We can always count on him for a little drama.

A few days before Christmas, I finally got a very battered book in the mail titled “The Spiritual Combat” by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli. Written in 1945, there are some parts that you need to take with a grain of salt, but the meaty chunks are in a small chapter with a long title: “What to Do When the Will is Apparently Overpowered and Unable to Resist.” Dom Scupoli talks about how, when fighting temptation and especially temptations against purity, there often comes a point when we feel powerless to resist. It’s like someone locked us in a sealed room and lined it with every possible trigger. These things corner us, trap us, until we feel that we literally have to give in or die.

What can you do? You’re standing on the brink, on the very edge. The temptations are so close you can almost taste them, nearly touch them. You have no strength left. Your willpower went out the kitchen window. Your body feels like a puppet on strings. Your resolve is melting like snow on a stove. What can you do


 This is what Dom Scupoli says: “If, at times, temptations press you so hard that your will, almost overpowered, seems to lack sufficient strength to resist any longer, do not be disheartened or throw down your arms. Defend yourself and cry out: “I shall never surrender to you! I shall not submit to you!” Act like a person who, having broken his sword on his stubborn enemy, fights with the hilt of it!”

Basically, when your body seems paralyzed, when your will seems as frozen as Elsa’s ice castle, force your lips to say “No!” Moan it, whisper it, say it in your head, but just say No. I know, it sounds kind of like those goofy drugs and alcohol posters hanging in your middle school. However derpy, those posters have a point. If you literally can’t do anything else, just say No. Say it over and over and over again, and while you’re doing that, get the hell out of wherever you are. This isn’t a retreat—it’s a breather.

 “The Spiritual Combat” looks at temptation and victory from a battlefield/combat perspective. We are the soldiers, fighting in Jesus’s army, and Satan and his devils are the enemy. We probably learned this in Sunday school, and it’s become a stale, cutesy image, like we're little plastic army guys that God plays with. As adults, we probably no longer think of Satan as being “the enemy;” in fact, we probably don’t even think about much him at all. And that’s exactly what he wants us to think: that he doesn’t exist, or if he does, he doesn’t really bother people like us.

Whatever pop culture has made him out to be, Satan is no dummy. We forget how virulently he hates God and how much he hates us. Yes, Satan hates us. He would destroy us in a nanosecond if God would only let him. He hates us because he has lost his heavenly inheritance and he tries damn hard to make sure that we lose ours. He hates me for writing this about him right now, and would probably like to kick my skull in if my guardian angel wasn’t standing by like Rambo (I like to imagine he looks like that, anyway). 


 This might sound like a lot of superstitious hocus-pocus, but it really isn’t. There are dozens of books and articles out there written by priests and professional exorcists that literally have to drag Satan out of people’s bodies. There are hundreds of satanic cults and black masses that glorify evil deeds like killing babies for sacrifice. Satan is no joke. He is real, he hates us, and he will do everything in his power to drag us to hell with him.

There is another great episode of the old TV series Combat called "The Long Way Home" where Sergeant Saunders and his men are captured by the Nazis and tortured to reveal strategic information. It’s one bad thing after another for these poor guys: they dig a tunnel but it’s discovered, they try to crawl under the fence but end up getting shot, they are starved and whipped. Saunders is forced to listen to the agonized cries of his men as Captain Steiner brutally beats them in his office. After another failed escape attempt, Saunders himself is scourged within an inch of his life (off screen, which is disappointing to those who like to watch handsome men in pain) and thrown back to commiserate with his already miserable squad. 


 One of the climactic scenes occurs when Steiner lets Saunders bury one of the Americans who died during an escape attempt. A bleeding mess, Saunders stands before Steiner with the body of the slain man at his feet. “Bury him,” Steiner snarls, chuckling to himself because Saunders has no tools but his bare hands. Saunders squares his shoulders, painfully drops to his knees, and begins clawing at the ground: defiant to the last, unshakeable, undefeated. 


 Basically, if we really care about winning this battle, we have to start with smart tactics. If you want to be freed from your sexual addictions, your chemical addictions, even your pop tart addictions, it all starts with having concrete combat strategies. Looking at each tempting situation like it’s a battle can actually be very helpful and draw a clear line for us. When all our ammo is spent, when we feel utterly defeated, trapped, and cornered, we can still utter a “No!” It will help us get our wits together, help us remember who we are and that we are not defined by our sins, that we have a loving God who is on our side. 

Think about this. Let it seep in the next time you’re brought to the breaking point. Then throw your rice bowl and get the hell out of there.

Aloha.

p.s. If you’re looking for something to do over break, both of the episodes I mentioned are on YouTube (I would recommend watching only the rice-bowl-throwing scene of Nine Dragons, around 58:50, unless you really want to see some wooden acting and atrocious polyester suits). The Combat is in two parts, both of them fabulous, but the defiant-Saunders part is in the beginning of Part Two.






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