On Spiritual Warfare & Married Friends
Paul's thoughts: I love the movie Jarhead. I think it's some of Sam Mendes' best work, including his Oscar-winning direction of 2000's American Beauty. Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Saarsgard, and Jamie Foxx all turn in fantastic performances. And it's a really powerful story. If you haven't seen it, it's the story of Marine scout sniper Anthony Swafford, whose tour of active duty took him to Iraq during the cold war. The film is a psychological character study. What happens to the mind of a man trained to kill, but forced to wait and wait and wait to pull the trigger as a more technologically advanced form of warfare passes him by? A lot of messed up stuff, as it turns out.
While I wouldn't recommend it as a 1-for-1 blueprint for how to live your life, the depiction of scout snipers in Jarhead has provided to me a strong model for the function of marriages within the invisible war in which every believing Christian is a soldier. Here are two things I learned from Jarhead about being a married soldier in God's army.
Carly's thoughts: I have watched exactly 0 war movies ever (wait, does South Pacific count???), so when we started thinking through the military implications of the marriage unit, I admit, I didn't have a lot of narratives to draw from. But let me assure you, as we've lived this out, I can think of no better fitting imagery. Marriage is an all out war - not against your spouse - but against the "rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm." While it might feel like your mother-in-law or that one friend is totally against your marriage, there is no one more concerned with your marriage either failing or becoming so distracted that it paints a poor picture of the gospel than Satan himself.
1. Scout snipers work in teams.
Paul's thoughts: I admit I was surprised to learn this. If there's any job within the military structure that I, in my ignorance, would have imagined to be a lone-wolf kind of job, it'd be a sniper. But that's not the case. Scout snipers always work in teams of two - a spotter and a shooter. I didn't think of it at the time, but I've come to appreciate the ways in which the relationship between a sniper and his spotter mirrors the relationship between spouses. The spotter's job is to support and protect the team, providing insight into variables that could affect the success of the mission. Spotters and snipers work together to analyze the range to the target, the direction and speed of the wind, and so on. And then the sniper pulls the trigger. The spotter's job is to now watch the shot's trajectory, and, in the unlikely event that the shooter has missed his target, provide feedback that will help the shooter to make adjustments and fire again. Admittedly, there's an easy correlation to be made to classic, conservative views of marriage, in which the spotter is both obviously and biblically supposed to be the wife and the shooter is supposed to be the husband. And perhaps, for many of us, that is the way that our relationships often play out. In my marriage, however, I know that my wife has just as many targets in her sights as I do. The path she walks with her God is not just laid out in the dusty clouds of my footprints. She has her own callings, and in those, I am her spotter.
Carly's thoughts: In our marriage, I see this play out most specifically when we are praying for other people. More often than not, I'm the spotter (ladies, this isn't a gender issue, it's just the way that the gifts God have given me work). I'll wake up with someone on my mind, and as I start to pray for them I'll get a sense of what God wants to do in their life. I'll mention this "intel" to Paul, and often times, that person will call him. I'll pray as he talks, every once in a while I'll chime in to tell him which question to ask, or which verse to mention. But for the most part, he fires the conversational shots, and I keep an eye out in prayer. But every once in a while, Jesus changes things up on us. A few weeks ago I knew I had to share the gospel with someone - someone I had more relational credibility with than Paul did. I had prayed about it until I was blue in the face, and still felt stuck. Yet, as Paul was praying for me, God gave him a verse to share with me that completely reframed (for the better!) what I was going to say. In that case, his intel aimed my shot.
2. Scout snipers work in units.
This was less of a surprise to me than the first revelation, but it was still not something I had ever given a tremendous amount of thought to. Jarhead shows the incredibly dysfunctional relationship of Swofford's platoon, comprised of other scout sniper teams. Now, I hope that, in my platoon, relationships are much less dysfunctional. Nevertheless, I am again struck by the necessity of marriages to be in community with other marriages, working together to accomplish God's purposes.
There's an old addage, usually said with regret and resentment, "Once you're married, you can only hang out with other married people." To my mind, if the thought of spending time as a couple with other couples is a deep and heavy burden to you, you're probably not spending time with the right couples. The moment you became a believer, placing your faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, accomplished on a cross more than two thousand years ago, you became a soldier. You were inducted into an army, conscripted to serve the resurrected Captain, Himself obedient to His Father's marching orders. And the Captain gave a set of standing orders to all His soldiers: beginning with your immediate battleground, and spreading ever outwards, find and train my other soldiers for battle. But, the moment you got married, a second induction ceremony was performed. You became a matched pair, a team within a specialized unit, whose express mission is to publicly represent, through your conduct as a team, the Captain and the sacrifice he made for his soldiers. Not only do you do this, but all the other people in the world who have ever been married had the same job description, whether they knew it or not, whether they fulfilled it intentionally or not.
Carly's thoughts: Friends, we don't battle alone! In the midst of these battle moments, it's oh-so-very encouraging to have another couple come alongside us to remind us that while we might be engaged in battle, the victory has already been won. To bring us dinner when our spiritual muscles are tired, to make us laugh and lift us up in prayer when we are weary. Or, even just to send us very pointed text messages when we are battling each other, instead of the enemy of our souls.
SO WHAT'S THE POINT?
At the end of the day, we're saying two not altogether revolutionary things: spiritual warfare is a thing (that affects your marriage), and have good married friends. But, what we want to stress is that the enemy is real, the attack is real, and in the Western world we often treat it like it's not. We treat spiritual warfare like a thing that only happens in the third world. As a culture, the West has evolved beyond demons, beyond the Devil. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the culture of the West has simply made his job easier for him, which has subsequently allowed him to operate much more subtly - but operate he does, and we are called to stand against him. Moreover, we believe that we are called to take the fight to him in some ways. Am I saying that you should be actively seeking out demons to vanquish, or attempting to summon the devil himself for a battle royale out in the backyard? No. Please don't do that. What I am saying is that we are on offense, not defense. We serve the victorious Captain. Our side has already won the war, and we continue to battle until our Captain forces our enemy to surrender once and for all. But our enemy is the one on the run. He is the one hiding, scheming, manipulating behind the scenes. We stand tall and firm in the faith - and we stand together. This battle that we have been called to fight in is one we were never meant to fight in alone. There are no lone soldiers in God's army. Especially if you're married. If you're married, and your team is completely segregated from any kind of platoon, if you have no unit to belong to, you are vulnerable. Don't get me wrong - the war effort is not vulnerable, just your ability to be an effective part of it, ably and confidently following the marching orders that God lays down before you.
If you're not sure what spiritual warfare looks like in the Western world, or if you're concerned you and your spouse might be more isolated than you should be, or both, Join us Thursday night at 6:30 for a more in-depth conversation on Facebook Live about how these two integral pieces of the married believer's walk fit together.