In this chapter, Benjamin must choose between conflicting orders. To the surprise of some, he chases after Jonah despite the threat of battle and death. Gillian gives Benjamin a solid excuse to slip out of danger, and yet this young slave refuses. Do you find such loyalty surprising? Have you ever witnessed such feelings forged so quickly? Do you believe you could have made such choices?
Benjamin admits to no clear idea why he acted this way. “I just did,” he tells us. Many different elements – feelings, impulses, impressions, mental discipline (or lack thereof), reactions, inflections – may urge us to act, luring us with great strength or subtlety. The Holy Spirit also may work within us this way. Yet all instances, whether a time of crisis or contemplation, require us to make a choice. Even one washed away by overwhelming circumstances or emotions makes a choice – and not just by giving in.
Have you faced such twists or turns often? Do you perceive any common elements among them, or in how you handled them?
A misstep in loose sand sends Benjamin sliding into a foxhole manned by just the sort of citizen soldiers he expected to see – frightened, cowering amateurs. Do you think many people today would react any different? How do you suspect you would deal with this?
The inevitable chaos of the battlefield challenges most of our preconceptions concerning combat, especially at the individual level. Benjamin describes its horror without delving into fighting: “Gnashing teeth, splitting leather, clashing iron, devout swearing, frantic screaming… the winds seemed bloated with all these horrid sounds and more,” he recalls. “Yet far worse proved the scent of decay. The morning was still young, and yet untold wounded and dying soaked the earth with blood and waste. The stench in that listless breeze choked not just my nose, but my eyes. Even my skin recoiled at the smell… or at the sounds, or the sights. Perhaps all three.”
Benjamin’s encounter with a wounded horse soldier leaves the young man stunned and confused, even as the warrior’s blade turns upon him. Gillian saves the slave, and in doing so, confronts him with the search for Jonah. Finding the prophet introduces Benjamin to the other side of combat: the enthusiastic participant.
“Gillian paused, catching his breath,” Benjamin explains. “It made me feel good that he too faced such handicaps. I had begun to think him tireless as well as fearless. From the look on my face, he must have figured out what held my mind. A gentle smile warmed his lips, giving way to bright laughter. I could not help marveling at it. At a simple turn he assumed a playful trait I had not thought possible from the great warrior. He still seemed quite the bear, but perhaps a loveable one.”
Once the peril of combat ends and time advances, some survivors forget the static confusion and look back on these trials with pride, even reverence. Others retain the nightmares of battle for the rest of their lives.
Have you witnessed or endured either reaction in your life?
Consider those who find romance in risk or conflict. Do such glories reflect humanity’s lust for excitement, our thirst for adventure, our disregard for danger, or even life itself? Or do these feelings reveal an appreciation for cherished values – honor, courage, determination, resilience, loyalty, self-sacrifice?
And what of the heartache? Almost everyone endures suffering at some stage of life, in trials that strike as hard as a sword. How have you dealt with such wounds? The Bible offers many insights on suffering, none more savage or brutal than what Christ endured on his path to Golgotha. Benjamin had none of these to call upon, but we do. Have you found comfort in such verses?