Braveheart. My favorite movie of all-time, by a substantial margin. Every time I watch this movie I end up having fantasies about being William Wallace of Scotland — living and dying for a great cause, far beyond myself. Being willing to take risks. Living to go after what I want, and not merely to avoid what I fear. Loving with great passion. Eventually finding that it is in me to die with conviction, holding fast to what I have believed.
Just when I get too caught up in this fantasy, I remember Wallace saying several times in the movie that he doesn’t want to spend his life fighting these great battles, but wants to simply live with a wife and children in peace. Wallace never gets that chance. But that is precisely the opportunity that is before me every day. The problem is how to live passionately and with great commitment when one is so comfortable, when one is so infrequently called on to display real courage, when one is surrounded on all sides by the blandness of middle American cultural values.
As much as I would love to be the Braveheart of mid-Michigan, I am befuddled by this. What does it mean to live with courage and passion in 21st century America? Where are my battles to fight? Who am I fighting for? What is the great calling of my life? Sure I am passionate about writing, about preaching and counseling, but if often seems like there is so little at stake — although in many ways that is untrue. And it often seems like signs of progress come so few and far between. At least when William Wallace won on the battlefield, there was a body count. What was won and what was lost were pretty clear. But I work the fields of human minds and heart, where it is nearly impossible to ever know the terrain that clearly to begin with, and where it is hard to know the score at any given time. Is this marriage winning — are they getting further ahead — or are they losing? Where are the people in my congregation? Are they getting it? Are they catching on? Are their lives getting better? How so? Am I making an impact on my students?
One can never quite know. And so faithfulness has to be the standard. Just keep at it and hope that something is sticking. Hope that the legacy of your life will be that the lives of others were made richer — even if it’s only because they learned through your failures what to avoid. I aspire to be Braveheart of mid-Michigan, but I am a shepherd. It is my calling, therefore, to guide and to protect, even if that means I die (and in this way I can be like Wallace) never knowing what my real impact was.
Perhaps that is all that is left to any of us. Be faithful. Do what we do in love and let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps my greatest battle will be precisely the battle to remain faithful in all that I do. Perhaps that’s your calling as well.