The Shield Wall

The darkness recedes on waves of agony, and reality slams back into focus. Searing pain rips through your midsection, and your hands involuntarily close on the broken spear shaft sunk deep into your belly. The body of an enemy lies nearby, his hand clutching the other part of the shaft, your own sundered blade through his neck. A fire burns in your abdomen. Breath comes in short gasps.

Glancing left and right, you see that no one lives on this hill. Bodies of friends and foe lay strewn about. For a while, the line had held, but the attacks had been relentless. Hours ago the line had splintered into smaller groups, each making its last, desperate stand. A few minutes before a hard blow turned your shield to kindling. That had been the beginning of the end. With your shield gone, it was only a matter of time.

Another wave of pain forces a grimace; this was not the end you’d imagined. The shrieking of the enemy horde reaches your ears – they are massing for another attack, and this time there’s no one left to stop them. Such a waste. So many dead, and the enemy just rolls on, relentless. The shrieking is getting louder, but already the world is growing dim. The pain is getting further away; you’re getting colder. Try as you might, you can’t move your hands from the weapon that has killed you, not even to die with your sword in your hand. My god, nothing ever hurt like this!

Screaming hate hits you like a physical force as the next wave of enemies closes. The first of them run right past. Then a pair notice you still draw breath, and they pause to savor their kill. Determined to give them no satisfaction, you stare as defiantly as you can directly into their eyes, and they raise their cruelly barbed spears for the killing blow. The blows descend –

and a shield slams down into place, both spears deflecting wide and leaving the enemy open to your savior’s counterthrusts. In the second it takes you to register that you still live, they fall, dead.

Down on the ground you can’t get a good look at this soldier, but he seems as fresh as when the battle began. Others of the enemy horde have realized his presence, and you catch a glimpse of a strong jaw line, of a terrible fire in the eyes. Shield and sword ready, he stands over you as if made of stone. A sea of enemies converges on your spot, far too many for this one man to stand against.

Yet stand he does! And more than that, the enemy is falling like wheat at the harvest. Every blow is dispatching more of the foe to eternity, but he has to tire at some point. Doesn’t he? Now the screams of the enemy shift to a cry of recognition; they know this champion, and they come at him in a snarling rage.

For a moment it seemed as if you might live, but your vision is dimming again, and you’re shivering with cold even though the sun blazes overhead. You’ve been around long enough to know a mortal wound when you see it. Whispering thanks to this fellow soldier for his efforts, you close your eyes.

-This-

booms a voice above you. You have never heard a more beautiful sound, an entire song sung in a single word.

-one-

The champion is speaking! Each word trembles with barely restrained power. Opening your eyes again, the world has come back into sharper focus.

-is-

Growing slightly warmer as the words flow over you, you watch as his sword flashes and another enemy spins away. The very air around you bristles with electricity, a storm about to break.

-MINE!-

The word itself bursts forth as a mighty shout, cutting through the enemy like a scythe. The ground beneath you shakes, and one last thought drifts across your mind as you finally lose consciousness:

Who is this man?

Awakening this time is peaceful; the pain remains, but something is different. The world around you is silent – the battle must be over! But how can it be? Looking up, you see your deliverer looking down on you, face covered in grime and sweat. He smiles and leans forward, and it strikes you that this might be the most genuine, honest face you’ve ever laid eyes on. Overcome with gratitude, you move to speak. With a gesture he silences you.

“Listen, friend. The wound need not be mortal, but we have to remove that spearhead.” He continues, answering the fear in your eyes and the slight shaking of your head. A voice inside screams at you: the spearhead is all that’s keeping you alive! It’s plugging a huge hole, if it’s removed…! Your shaking hands grip the spear even tighter.

“There is little time left. You have to trust me. Let me help you… let go of the spear. It’s killing you.” His hand on your shoulder is strong and comforting at the same time, but the voice inside cries out again. There’s no hope! If that spear comes out, what little life remains to you is gone!

Looking into his eyes, you try to move your hands off the rough hewn wood, but the muscles have been tight now for too long. It will take more strength than you have. In a voice barely more than a gasp, you ask him to help. “I-I can’t-I can’t do it. Can you help me let it go?”

“You had but to ask. I won’t lie to you; this is going to hurt.” In a single motion he effortlessly moves aside your hands, and pushes the spear the rest of the way through the wound. A ragged cry rips from your lips. Before, you were in pain, but this! You didn’t know there was agony like this in all the world –

And then it’s gone, so quickly you wonder if you imagined it. Looking down, expecting to see the ruin of your stomach, you stare for a moment in shock.

Not only is there no blood, there’s no wound. Your armor is whole again, and shining like new from the smith. In amazement, you look up again, eyes wide. And then you recognize your deliverer, your champion… your Savior.

“My Lord!” As fast as you had started to sit up, you throw yourself face down on the ground before him. How did you not see it before? Shaking –this time with reverence and awe – your breath is once again coming in short bursts.

“Rise, faithful servant.” He reaches down and helps you up to stand before Him, a wry smile on His face. “I think you’ve spent enough time on the ground for one day,” he continues. Was that the faintest hint of laughter in His voice? You can only match His gaze for the briefest moment, and then you lower your eyes in respect. He speaks again, and His voice is a melody that moves your soul to tears.

“You have stood for me this day, and I will remember it. One day all struggles will cease, forever… but until that time, go forth in my Name. And hold fast to this promise: no one who stands in my Name will ever stand alone.”

A moment passes. Daring to look up again, you realize everything has changed! Where your Lord stood, a bubbling stream now flows up from the ground. Its banks run thick with green grass, lush and inviting. Kneeling to drink, you hadn’t realized until this moment how terribly thirsty you were. The water is pure and sweet. Having drunk your fill, you stand up and see the gifts He has left for you: leaning against a nearby tree rest your sword and your shield, restored to gleaming perfection once more. Taking them up, you set your foot on the path before you, in search of your sword brothers.

Ephesians 6:10-20 tells us to take up the full armor of God, that we may stand against the Evil One.

We are never instructed to remove it.