I gave a speech on “Becoming a Warrior-Poet” somewhere in Michigan on August 22, 2023, so thought I’d share it in written form here. Here is Part 1 and Part 2. Enjoy!

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Warrior poets are lovers of truth and people, and defenders of both. They hold to deep convictions, act from careful thought, and are skilled in violence and protection. Moved by virtue to risk life and limb in the service of others, to protect the innocent, these men and women live for a higher purpose.

What are your battlefields, what are the wars you must fight, where should you embody the warriorpoet archetype? The answer is—everywhere, all the time. That’s far from easy—impossible, actually.

To be a warrior poet, in my estimation, is to fully become what it means to be a human being made in the image of God. There will be much fear and failure along the way, but what makes it worth it?

Good question. As glorious and valiant the Spartans are to me, they were far from perfect, they were immersed in a pagan, immoral culture, and died without truly achieving the complete warrior-poet ideal. But Someone did. May I introduce you to the noblest, best warrior-poet ever to walk this earth?

He appeared to Joshua at Jericho as the Commander of the Lord’s army, wielding a double edgedsword. He is the Man on the white horse in Revelations 19, with eyes like flames and dressed in a robe dipped in blood, leading the armies of heaven and governing earthly nations with a rod of iron.

Two thousand-odd years ago, He was born to a virgin mother, taking his place alongside his carpenter step-father for thirty years. Then for the last three years of his life, he taught truth, demonstrated beauty, exemplified bridled strength, and loved those around him to the point of suffering a gruesome death for their sake—a sacrifice they couldn’t, didn’t even comprehend. The people thought death was the end of his story.

But it wasn’t.

Three days later He arose, and changed the way everyone thought about everything ever since. And people are still trying to figure out who he is and why He came. But I know. He came to show us the way, the truth, and the life—that was what He is. He lived, died, and rose as a warrior-poet of the highest caliber, greater than any of us could attain in a thousand lifetimes. His name is Jesus Christ, and I know Him as Savior and Friend, Master and Lord.

Here’s the catch, tho. He’s someone you can’t adjust for yourself, a truth you cannot define for yourself; you must adjust to Him, must submit to this Truth with a capital T. Because Christ is the ideal human, the picture you hold of Christ is the person you’re growing into. And as we strive towards this ideal, which is unattainable, we never shift into neutral. The moment we stop growing is the moment we start dying in ways we don’t perceive. I can tell you the times when I’ve become stagnant, the same as
dying. It’s when I’ve lost sight of Christ. But once you do or have, who you are changes forever. That’s why you can tell the difference between those who only know about the Lamb of Calvary, and those who have personally met that lamb, and the Lion of Judah.

And if you ever find yourself doubting Him as a warrior and a poet, look at the scars He bears. Read the Gospels, which give account of His life and death.

And listen to this… In poet and minister Edward Shilito’s words:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

The holes on His hands and feet, the scars left by thorns on His head, the stripes on His back speak of a a sorrow so deep sweat mingled with blood; a dedication to truth so solid a man of flesh and blood went willingly to the cross; a humility so real, God coming in the form of man; a strength so noble He forgave his tormentors when He could have exterminated them; a mind and spirit so strong it remained steadfast until death; and a sacrificial love so deep, so everlasting, and so beautiful it’s won this broken woman over and caused her to trust and follow Him until the end of her days—and beyond.

Those scars Christ bears tell us His story, like each of the scars we bear tell ours. Well, sometimes. I wanted to look tough and strong as a kid, so I’d run through bushes and thorny patches with bare arms and legs, hoping to get covered with scratches. The pain was nothing—the aesthetics, everything.

Even now, I don’t usually wear gloves unless there’s actual immediate danger—which explains why the scars on my hands here and here and here tell stories that come with life lessons. I have matching scars on the back of my right and left hand: the one on the left reminds me that there’s a point in things at which it would be foolish to push forward stubbornly; the one on the right is a testament to when I procrastinated too long to do something that had to be done, getting tired and fearful as time passed on, until I got hurt doing what had to be done because I was already tired. A handy way to remind myself to use my common sense and stop repressing it, I guess. At least they’re less expensive and permanent than tattoos…but I digress.

There’s actually a word for this I’ve come across that beautifully sums up my fascination with scars (and pain). It’s the word “scabulous”; adjective, “proud of a certain scar on your body, which is like an autograph signed to you by a world grateful for your continued willingness to play with her, even when it hurts.”

Note, I’m not advocating for the intentional creation of scars for scars’ sake—that would be more than stupid, it would be disrespectful to the God Who created your body—but I am advocating against the avoidance of scars altogether—including the hidden ones. There are things worth getting hurt for in this world, as Christ, Spartans, and every true warrior would tell you and show you. Your beliefs and convictions, the truth, your loved ones, what is good and beautiful. It is cowardice to not do the right thing—even if it means fighting, getting dirty, getting hurt (figuratively, but in some instances also
literally), and getting scared—just because you want to keep your skin and heart flawless. Or at least maintain the “appearance” of flawlessness. Because, isn’t being unable or unwilling to challenge yourself, to love, to sacrifice for another an even greater flaw in your very being?

I’ll give you an example. Let’s circle back to love—the warrior poet’s greatest strength and greatest vulnerability. To love someone is to choose to care for them, care about them, knowing they are imperfect and that you will be hurt by them, but loving them anyways. Love risks. It’s a a verb, and active word. It’s to bare your soul to another person—like what I’m doing with you all right now. To love, then, is to choose to allow yourself to be wounded out of commitment to others, and to make peace with that pain and those scars. Christ did the same: He loved us and offered Himself so that we
could be made right with Him. It required more pain and suffering than we could ever imagine—and He paid it. He is God—He could have chosen not to, but He did.

On the flip side, some scars tell the opposite story. Of all the scars a Spartan warrior could have, the most disgraceful were those on their back after a battle—the silent, shameful proof of a coward. But the ones on your chest, torso, arms and legs—they meant you’ve stood up for something, and suffered, personally and painfully, for it. You valued something outside of yourself greater than yourself, and gave of yourself when the situation called for it.

As the lone warrior Eleazar did, in 2 Samuel 23:9-10—and I’ll close with this story.

Imagine this battle scene with me. The Israelite army has deserted the battle field to the Philistines. Only one man stands alone against their onslaught, wielding a sword, never once turning his back even as the Philistine troops come against him. He’s terribly outnumbered—and yet he stabs, swings, thrusts with the sword. His arm is tiring—see him waver, note the glassy exhaustion of his eyes, watch his movements become more and more strained. He’s slowing down—and yet the Philistines keep coming.
No human comrade comes to help him; but still he fights on. Feel his instinctive fear of death and pain as his blood flows from a dozen wounds, the sorrow over the cowardice of his friends weakening his spirit, the soul-deep ache in his bones that he is a man and nothing more—and a frail one at that. But still he fights. There’s no way he could win; but he is a warrior, he has a purpose he believes in, and he’ll die believing in and fighting for that purpose.

And he wins. Because the Lord helped him. God does notice courage and steadfastness like that—but that’s not my main point.

The short passage notes that, when the Philistines were driven back, the Isrealites came back only to spoil. Eleazar lay unconscious and covered with blood and sweat on the battlefield, the sword gripped so tightly in his hand that they could hardly pry it out of his fingers. His hand clave to the sword, the verse says. He’d held on so tightly to the sword that it became one with his hand and his body.

That, ultimately, is what it means to be and to live as a warrior poet.

To grip so firmly to the sword, to the word of God, to Christ Himself, that you or others can no longer tell, in your thoughts, words, and actions, where you ended and He began. To hold on to truth, to the point of death, even if no one else stands beside you. To fight humbly and courageously with that sword, knowing that without it you are nothing. To live as Christ lived, spend every waking moment becoming more like Him, loving others as He did, and to die following Him.

May we, as warrior-poets of the twenty-first century, walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called, as our Lord was faithful to His.

Thank you.

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