Dearest War,

Waking up this morning I felt that sick stone pressing on my lungs again. Breath a little short, metal spoon-like keeping me from inhaling the bright dawn. Throbbing pools held back just behind the shell of my face. Not enough power to let it down, to let them fall, to release.

There is a famous line from the movie “Usual Suspects” that goes like this: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” To not see the Devil, to not believe in him, to disregard the warnings and the cautions concerning his work, is to give him free reign to work his chaos and destruction. Without the Devil we forget the true opposition to our faith. We forget there is indeed a battle going on, that evil is real and working to divide and destroy the children of God. The other day I was talking with my good friend and colleague, Tim Barkett, about everything going on in our country these past few months. He said that out of all of Satan’s attacks, all his manifestations, this is perhaps his most elegant one.

I will never be a good salesman. I remember when I was young, maybe toward the end of middle school or the beginning of high school, I used to go out a few times to sell newspaper subscriptions for the paper I delivered. There is very little that seems more awkward to me than trying to sell something, being declined, and continuing to meet objections with answers. Needless to say, I suspect that the only subscriptions I sold were to those who were already inclined to buy them.

Quiet and relaxed. Temperature was just right. Breathing slowly, purposely, focused on the black emptiness behind my eyelids. Listening to the hum of a fan that spun just a little too loudly above my head. No, don’t think about the fan. Blank it out. Open my heart, as I inhale. Breath rushes in through my nose, tickles my throat, and swells my lungs. Is my heart open?   Imagining each throb spreading wider and wider the little muscle that pulses in my chest. But no, that’s not right. Not my literal bloody heart behind my ribs. Open my spiritual heart, did I do it? Am I open? Ugh. Stop filling my thoughts with these stupid questions. Clear my mind so I can hear his voice.

They call it the Great Commission. It is the sending out of the Church of God with a purpose, a mission that gives it its definition. This is not a one-time or temporary thing the Church is to do, like a checkmark on a long list of other priorities. No, this is its very identity. It is what we are to fill our days with as we await the end of all things and the return of our Lord. On a mountaintop in Galilee Jesus meets His disciples. There they worship their resurrected Lord and He says to them, “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it,” Chesterton quipped in his book, A Short History of England. “If a man has a right to vote, has he not a right to vote wrong? If a man has a right to choose his wife, has he not a right to choose wrong? I have a right to express the opinion which I am now setting down; but I should hesitate to make the controversial claim that this proves the opinion to be right.”

Self-righteousness might be the most devastating disease debilitating mankind today. And it will stop at nothing to protect its host, even putting God on a cross. Jesus addressed it more than any other sin. Because, if a person is self-righteous, that is, doesn’t think she is wrong, she certainly won’t be self-reflective enough to see any other error. Self-righteousness afflicts us all; left and right, atheist or Christian, democrat or republican.

I love a good triumphant moment in a story. I enjoy watching Aragorn struggle through battle after battle, culminating in his full acceptance of his destiny as he’s crowned king, or the instant where Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and I finally release the breath I was holding and start to grin. You could argue that Aragorn won his kingdom the moment Sauron fell, or perhaps that Arthur’s greatness was truly manifested in the way in which he ruled as king, rather than how he became king. But beyond making you want to stand up and cheer in the theater, these culminating moments offer crucial imagery and value to the overall story.