A Warrior’s Life
Once there was a man named Oliver who swore an oath to defend his country and uphold the laws of the land. Oliver was a soldier who had traveled far and wide and fought in many battles, all in the name of “Glory” for his homeland. In his country one achieved greatness by going to war. The battlefield was a place of honor; the more enemy you killed, the more honors you obtained for yourself and your country. Oliver had done well in his campaigns, having been part of many successful battles. His tour of duty was now at an end and he was reaping the benefits of a war hero in a land that valued this type of accomplishment. All who knew Oliver respected him. He was revered wherever he went.
One day while walking about his city, he came upon a little boy. This young man was orphaned and made his living by begging in the streets. Oliver felt compassion for this boy and gave him some money. He also shared with him some tales of glory on the battlefield and his various military accomplishments. The little boy listened intently and seemed captivated by every word. But, actually, he was more concerned with the money he acquired and how much bread he could buy. As the days rolled past Oliver met the little boy on many occasions, each time telling him more stories, each time giving him money which later was used to purchase bread. Then the day came when the little boy could not be found. Oliver looked for him everywhere but to no avail. He seemed to have disappeared.
Oliver, dejected now, stopped looking for the boy. He was sad for he felt he had lost a friend. No longer did he have an outlet for his stories. This he especially found painful because, in retelling them, he could relive his days of glory. But then, while walking around the area where the boy was last seen, Oliver came upon a little girl, equally ragged and alone. She begged him for money to buy bread, which he provided, but only after sharing with her one of his stories of the battlefield. She too listened intently of course, but only so she could receive the money in the end. Oliver, for his part, was relieved to have another friendly ear listen to his tales of glory. The days passed quickly again as the encounters continued. The little girl appeared; Oliver shared a story or two and then gave her some money, which she exchanged for bread.
Sadly, the day came when the little girl no longer appeared. She too disappeared, leaving Oliver without a friend to whom he could tell his stories. In the end Oliver no longer preoccupied himself with worry over these losses. He concluded that such individuals would come and go in his life, so another would likely come along soon.
One day, while wandering through a park, Oliver came upon a dove whose wing was broken and therefore couldn’t fly or defend itself. Oliver gathered up the dove and took it to his home. He treated its injuries with techniques he had acquired on the battlefield. Eventually the dove recovered sufficiently that it could fly again and Oliver released it. He felt quite happy about this. For the first time since the children had come and gone from his life Oliver felt good about himself again. He could not share his stories with the bird but he could help it regain its health. For this he was truly grateful as there were fewer opportunities for him to feel useful now than during his days as a warrior.
Oliver began to reflect on this. What was it about war that made him so happy? Was it the glory? Was it the winning of battles? Was it the adventure and excitement? He could not answer these questions with any satisfaction. As he continued to reflect on this the dove he had nursed back to health reappeared at his window and began speaking to him.
“I am here, dear sir, to thank you for saving my life. You brought me back to health and then released me. For that I am truly grateful.”
“I was only too happy to help,” Oliver replied.
“Yes, I realize this,” the dove went on, “but why then are you so sad at this time?”
“Well, it’s like this,” Oliver began. “When I was a warrior I had a purpose. That was to serve my country and bring glory to myself in the process. I did this successfully for many years. Until recently that was all I had in my life. When I returned from my last campaign, I was determined to find something new for myself. I knew that I was done with warring, but what could I do now? All I’ve ever known is the battlefield along with the expectations of my country and its laws. All of these I honored to the best of my ability. But then shame came over me during that last battle. I had killed many men that day. These were good, brave men who were there to uphold the laws of their land, who saw me as their enemy, in the same fashion that I saw them. In the end, it was I who was victorious, but to what avail? I am no longer happy with that warring part of myself. I realized this when I first met the little boy. He seemed eager to listen to me at the beginning, but only in exchange for money so he could buy food. I, on the other hand, needed him to keep those war memories alive, because that gave my life some value again. With the little girl it was the same thing. She listened too, but only to obtain money for food. When you came along I had a different mission. I could not share my stories with you but I could help mend your broken wing and this gave new meaning to my life. I hope you can understand this.”
“Oh I believe I do,” the dove answered. “Your life had been meaningful when you could defend your country in battle and help destroy its enemies. But in the end you realized those enemies were much like you, fighting for the same kinds of beliefs and dying for them. Now that your warring days are behind you, you’re wondering where life can take you now. So you’re searching for some way to feel useful again. The past you have a grasp on, but the present, well that confuses you. You want to be something other than a warrior, a healer perhaps?”
“Why yes, a healer,” Oliver repeated with some excitement. “Perhaps that is what I am meant to be now. But how does one become a healer when one has spent their entire life as a warrior?”
“That is a good question,” the dove responded. “How does one change from one mode of being to what is apparently its complete opposite?”
“You see what I mean,” Oliver continued. “I find this all so confusing. I knew how to be a warrior because that is what was expected of me and what I was trained to do. But now I wish to change. So how do I become what I perceive to be the complete opposite of what I once was?”
Just then, an angel descended upon the scene, glowing and radiant.
“I have heard your prayer, sir,” the angel stated. “And I am here to instruct you on your new mode of being. Do you wish for me to go on?”
“Yes, yes, by all means,” Oliver quickly answered.
And so the angel proceeded to explain.
“When you served your country, you did so for reasons that you believed to be good. Your country had laws which you swore to uphold and you did so to the best of your ability. When that was no longer required, you retired from the battlefield and came home. You did not know what to do with yourself, so you wandered around your city. You met the little boy and then the young girl and relived your glory days with them. That helped for a while, but when you lost them, you felt lost again yourself. When the dove appeared, injured and in need of help, you found a new purpose. You devoted yourself to its care without concern for your own needs. No exchanges were made, no stories were shared. Just a helping hand was extended to a creature in need. That, sir, is the essence of glory, or, more accurately, Grace – helping another without consideration of any benefits for you. Any exchange would have cheapened the value of what was truly a ‘gift.’
When you paid the children to listen to you, you never came away satisfied. They had no need of your stories; they only wanted bread. The dove, on the other hand, was in need of your help; help that you, experienced in the ravages of war and mending wounds, could provide. That made you feel good. You simply engaged in a selfless act that helped another who couldn’t help themselves. Do you see the difference now?”
“Yes, I believe I do,” Oliver answered. “I believe I can see that when I truly give of myself without expectation, I am rewarded with the feeling of Grace.”
“That is correct,” the angel went on. “So, that feeling of Grace, sir warrior, is it different from, or similar to, the feeling of Glory?”
“Why, it is quite different,” Oliver answered. “Yes, of course. Grace is an inner feeling and Glory comes from without. In achieving Glory I am serving others and upholding some mysterious laws that I don’t even understand. But in Grace I am serving my inner Self, by providing aid or whatever else is required to another, without any expectation of a return. No Glory on the battlefield has ever equaled this,” Oliver went on with growing enthusiasm. “Oh what joy I am feeling now. So, is this the meaning of selflessness?”
“Yes indeed. You have learned your lesson well,” the angel replied. “The Lord High God will be very pleased. He is greatly reassured when one of His dominion is returned to his Self in the service of the higher good. His praises be upon you.”
And with that, the angel retreated from the scene.
Oliver was left to ponder these experiences. He started out as a warrior, a destroyer of life, for purposes of which he was now unsure. Presently, his view of life leaned toward providing healing and comfort to others, for the greater good as the angel had explained, far greater than he could yet fathom. He had the children to thank for this awakening and, of course, the dove. These proved to be his teachers in this all important lesson on the value of life. In his heart Oliver knew now what path he was to follow. And that path led him toward Grace and away from Glory. Glory was in his past and no longer valued. Grace belonged to the present and to his future, promising to be far more fulfilling than anything he had previously experienced. With these thoughts Oliver felt good inside.