Picture yourself: hunkered down with a watchful eye trained in all directions, scanning for any sign of enemy movement. Ears straining, listening intently for any foreign sound. The tension is mounting; attack is inevitable— it’s about that time.
Almost out of nowhere, the buzz of aircraft fills the skies seeming to come from every direction. Hundreds of chutes deploy sailing through the air and firing in your direction. The noise is deafening, sulphuric smoke fills the air, clouding your senses; blocking your view. But you’re prepared; unloading round after round you and your team take out every. single. one. The ammunition is gone but with no movement from enemy territory, you’re feeling it: victory.
As the madness gives way to silence, the signal comes to take stock of the casualties. Parachutes and their fallen lay in heaps around the field, hung up in trees, swaying in the breeze. Cautiously you edge forward, prepared for any sudden movement— except there is none.
Not a sound.
Not even blood.
Something isn’t right.
One by one, the reports come in that every “casualty” is a rubber dummy. Strapped with explosives, made to look like enemy paratroopers, you and your team have just spent all your energy and ammunition on decoys.
Worse, some of your own team got caught in the crossfire and now lay wounded. Worse still, the enemy…the REAL enemy is still coming and you’ve got nothing left to give. There’s no other choice but to regroup, retreat and give up this piece of territory.
Or be captured.
I first heard the basics of this story (which I’ve obviously laced with a divine bit of “holy imagination) in a Let My People Think broadcast entitled “Lessons from War in a Battle for Ideas ” by Apologist Ravi Zacharius. He’d been visiting a museum in France on the recent anniversary of the Normandy invasion and this story, along with a few others, gave him much to think about and share.
Because I have the American perspective of history and of living on the victorious side of the record books, I can smile a bit at the ingenuity of the soldiers and strategists who pulled off such a daring stunt. I mean, HA! Rubber dummies! A purely genius moment of classic Psyops warfare. I suppose I do feel a little badly for how stupid those other guys must have felt but seriously?! Who’d fall for that?
Of course, there’s a valuable takeaway, which is the reason the story was told by a Christian for Christians. The point made is intended to help us recognize how each of us is also, at some level, engaging daily in a very real battle with a very real enemy. This enemy, satan, has most of his (temporary) successes bound up in moments like these.
Rather than attack us directly, satan can find better ways to make us think we’re being attacked. Before we know it, he’s drawn our fire and we’re giving it all we’ve got; wiping out our energy and reserves, our kindness and compassion and ultimately, our precious minutes and gospel witness. All of it spent… on rubber dummies. Often then discovering that others— some we love or ought to love— were wounded in the skirmish and we’re the ones holding a smoking gun.
But they looked so real!
Rubber dummies take on many forms and they have their seasonal attire as well. Currently, there’s red cups, Starbucks and a variety of other holiday expressions. In today’s world they’re couched and cloaked in hashtags, sometimes wearing a particular skin color, creed or a badge. Sometimes they just don’t “do Jesus” and worship the right way any day of the week. There are many others.
Each scenario holds just enough truth blended with a basket full of lies so that at first glance we’re deceived and go full throttle. When the wreckage clears we’re left wondering how did we get so distracted AGAIN? How did we lose so much territory and waste so much time over something like THIS? It’s hard— because on the surface many of these things matter but I feel pretty confident in saying that Jesus hasn’t intended for us to stay and engage life at surface levels where most of these things take place.
Reading this morning from A Slice of Infinity, I was reminded again how the call of the Christian is to live as He did, counter-culturally, which is NOT the same thing as living anti-culturally. To be sure, it’s a life of constant tension, as we seek to engage the lost and model Christ to a rapidly disintegrating culture, often while having to simultaneously represent our faith and turn the other cheek. A lot.
However, it’s our ability to embrace Christ and engage others in the midst of this tension while guarding our reactions that will— and must— look so dramatically different from the culture around us. It’s seldom a public, showy show-down.. it’s more often the humble and quiet, salt and light business of just doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons that point others to Him.
It’s the willingness to live a life of surrender and standing, with God’s help, in the ever-widening cultural chasm that threatens to swallow us whole. Standing with our eyes so fixed on Jesus that when those rubber dummies descend from the skies and the pandemonium swirls all around, we are able to hear Him whisper, “Steady. Steady.” and instead of “unloading” we use our witness well.
At Christmastime …yes, please for the love of all that is holy…especially now when people all around are so confused about the meaning of Christmas or have divorced it from any meaning altogether. So that maybe.. just maybe this would be the year that others might begin to see the meaning behind how we live because of the Hopeful Reason we have to truly celebrate and then… just maybe, like the shepherds keeping watch, they also might say, Wow…
“Let us go and see this thing made known to us by the Lord.”