This month at the Old School, David Dusek of Rough Cut Men was on hand to teach us a little about what it means to be in the army. He was right out front with his personal story of tragedy, talking about being a son that was estranged from his own father for many years, and then having a son with a strained relationship that just recently got repaired.
David had been married, divorced, and remarried, leaving a son with his ex-wife. When his ex-wife died, he and his new wife got custody of the son, but the boy would never accept the woman as his step-mother. It wasn’t until the boy was grown and had a wife and child of his own that things began to change. David relates his daughter-in-law asking the son a question, “Is there an expiration date on hurt feelings?”
His son had been among the walking wounded for many years, but thanks to the wise words of a loving wife, those wounds have been mended. Many men are like his son was, among the walking wounded. David presented life on earth as a battlefield. For those who are saved, our citizenship is in heaven, but we live here where the “god of this world” “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” And the devil has his sites set especially on men because God has ordained that men be the leaders of the home and in our communities. So the devil is doing everything he can to attack us and pick us off, one by one.
His strategy works best if he can get us alone. Most men, if you ask how they’re doing, respond with something like, “I’m fine.” This author has even heard one guy respond with, “I’ve never had a bad day in my life,” when asked how he’s doing. We tend to put people at arm’s length. We don’t really want to tell other people the truth for fear of being judged for our weaknesses, or fearing they will respond with callousness to something we consider a serious issue. So rather than take that chance, we just clam up.
David spent several minutes talking about the army’s structure, and how it relates to forming the strong bonds of fellowship necessary to get us through the spiritual battles we must face. The United States army currently has three cores with a total of around 534,000 soldiers between them. Those cores are broken down into two to five divisions of between ten and eighteen thousand soldiers each. Then those divisions are broken down into three or more brigades of around 3000 to 5000 each. Then brigades are broken into three or four battalions of 300 to 1300 each. Battalions are broken down into companies, which are broken into platoons of 15 to 30, which are broken into squads of 8 to 10, which are broken into fire teams, which are typically only four people.
The battle, and thus the war, is more about the fire team than about the battalions or brigades. Those four people form a bond with each other that is very tough. They look after each other, have each other’s back, and all perform specific duties unique to their fire team. There’s the leader, a grenadier, a gunner, and a long-range rifleman. If any one of those elements is missing in the fire team, it makes the team weaker.
The enemy would try to shoot the leader first because he’s the commander. Without his leadership, the whole team falls apart. The second guy they go after is the gunner because he can cause a lot of damage to the enemy very quickly. The next guy they go after is the radio operator because killing him cuts off communication to the remaining troops.
If you are a man, you are the biblically ordained leader of the home, which means you are the devil’s primary target. If you are a minister of any type, then your words are like bullets to the enemy. Your words have the potential to affect lots of people at once, so the devil is especially after you! Next just as the enemy would target the radio man, the devil wants to cut off our communication with heaven. He will do everything he can to prevent you from praying because prayer is our means of getting reinforcements from our Commander, Christ.
The Core Group
He wants to distract us from fighting the real battles by entangling us with worldly things (not necessarily sinful things) to keep us preoccupied so we’re not paying attention to the really important matters. And one of the ways he does that is by keeping us from getting close enough to other guys to share our struggles with them. It’s easy to talk about things like sports or politics or cars or work, or a million other things that distract us from focusing on and talking about the things that really matter. It’s human nature and especially male nature to keep our problems and burdens and struggles to ourselves. And so we generally walk alone rather than walking with a close-knit team of men whose burdens we share, and who share their burdens with us.
David talked about a group of guys in the Third Infantry Division. He was with one guy from the Third ID when they spotted another one across the room, and the two shared a knowing look. Later, David asked what that look meant, and his friend told the story he and two other guys in the Third ID were the men who tore down Saddam’s statue in Iraq during the war. They shared a common experience that no one else was in on, and it gave them a closeness that they didn’t have with anyone else.
Sadly, David said, most guys never get that level of close relationship with a fellow Christian man, but Jesus taught that it was absolutely necessary to get that for our spiritual well-being. And the path to that level of fellowship is through shared experiences. Jesus had, at one point, seventy-two men that He sent out two-by-two. He sent them out in pairs (cover formation) because one guy alone is easier for the enemy to pick off than two guys who have each other’s backs.
But Jesus had a closer group of just twelve guys. Those were His apostles, the ones to whom He revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Then he had an even closer group of just three guys who saw things no one else saw. Only three apostles got to experience the mount of transfiguration. Only three guys got called apart in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter, James, and John got to share a closeness with our Lord that no other men on earth got to share, and they were the better because of it.
But there was one disciple who had an even closer relationship with Jesus. There was only one disciple known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. There was only one man that Jesus could lean on while on the cross to take care of His family after His death. Just as David had Jonathan, just as Paul had Silas, Jesus had John. Solomon says in Proverbs, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of another.”
This is the core of the Iron Works ministry, and was the core of David’s message that night. When men miss that kind of relationship, they fail to become the sharp instrument they could be, and just as dull swords aren’t as useful against an advancing army, dull men cannot be used for God as effectively as those whose countenance is sharper.
He also talked about several military terms, one of which is “down range.” Down range is where you point the gun in a shooting range. The guns are always pointed “down range” because you don’t want to accidentally shoot someone. So you never want to be down range, because being down range on the battlefield means you’re the target, not the gun.
The Bible teaches that we have an enemy, and that as long as we are on this earth, we are “down range” of our enemy. We are his target. That’s because we are citizens of heaven, not citizens of earth. Earth is the kingdom of Satan, so every moment we spend on this earth, we spend in enemy territory. That’s why Peter told us to “be sober, be vigilant”. It’s why Paul told us to put on the “whole armor of God.” We are in a spiritual battle every single day, which is why it’s so important to have someone we can rely on who has our back, and we have theirs.
David taught that it is our shared experiences that help us form common bonds and build friendships that can turn into core friendships. Several times throughout the year, Iron Works hosts events where men can get out of their normal daily routines and form spiritual bonds with each other. If you’re a man who’s isolated and alone, you are an easy target for the enemy. And if he can take you out, then those who you are charged to protect (your wife, your children, etc.) are that much easier for the devil to get to.
The full audio is available upon request.