“Imperfect as we are, our families need us. They need us to provide, protect, guide, forgive, encourage, nurture, and love. They need us to have the courage to slay our own demons. They need to learn from our successes and failures so they also can embark on the warrior’s journey.”
Love and Duty
The combat deployment proved difficult and demanding, as always. Finally time to return from the battlefield, the battalion of soldiers talked of taking some R&R and seeing their families. Thoughts of what they would find at home began to enter their minds. How much did she grow while I’ve been away? His voice must sound more like a man’s now. I can’t wait to hold her again.
As the weary but hopeful men neared their hometown, something in the air did not feel right. Even their horses seemed tense and nervous. All talking ceased as they continued forward. Was that smoke rising in the distance? No sooner had one man kicked his horse into full speed, all six hundred did the same. The terror they felt cannot be easily imagined. Their enemies struck without mercy in their absence. Nothing these courageous soldiers did on the battlefield could change the fact that their own town had been destroyed, and every last family member abducted.
Their memories of a lively place filled with laughter and loved ones transformed into desolation before their horrified eyes. The only sound heard was a soft wind fanning the last of the small flames. This sight of their empty town wounded them far more than anything they could have lost in fierce combat. Even battle-hardened warriors have a breaking point. Each one began to weep with bitter anguish until every ounce of strength was gone.
The story above paints a picture of what David’s army encountered at Ziklag in First Samuel, chapter 30. Not surprisingly, though exhausted beyond words, this group determined to pursue at all cost. They needed no orders or motivation. Love and duty to their families seemed more than enough. Though not always the case in Scripture or history, this story contains a fortunate ending with every family member alive and rescued. Fighting for their family remained part of their warrior identity.
Though a vastly different time and place, modern warriors still gain much from this Old Testament account. While there is no such thing as an ideal relationship, one’s duty to family fits boldly into the warrior’s character. It is part of the calling and not to be taken lightly. Certain obstacles may compete with fulfilling this duty, such as demands on time, desire for success, or interpersonal relationship conflict. Even so, warriors recognize the value they bring and needs they fulfill as a leader at home.
Imperfect as we are, our families need us. They need us to provide, protect, guide, forgive, encourage, nurture, and love. They need us to have the courage to slay our own demons. They need to learn from our successes and failures so they also can embark on the warrior’s journey.
A Key Takeaway
Some years ago, I attended a certain military school in which the senior enlisted leader shared a personal story. He recalled his military success, but deeply regretted that it came at the cost of his family. He conveyed to us young officer candidates that no one ever talked to him about the importance of investing time into his marriage and children. Driven to prove himself, he volunteered for any and every opportunity.
In the career world, the approach paid off. He ascended to the top. However, he deeply regretted that one day he returned to an empty house. Looking back, his success cost too much. He disclosed to us that if he could do it all again, he would prioritize his family—even if it meant retiring at a lower rank. I felt deep respect for this leader who made himself vulnerable enough to give aspiring future leaders some straight talk about life. This man’s personal story provides a key takeaway.
The High Priority
Family relationships deserve high priority in one’s life. It is more than a responsibility; it is a moral and spiritual duty. Warriors understand that a task or mission must get accomplished no matter what. Quitting is not an option. Why? The effect of quitting can have devastating, real-world fallout. What if we treated our personal relationships the same way? As much as we might not want to admit it, another warrior can replace us to make the mission succeed. However, no one can replace us to enable our own family to succeed.
It is the individual warrior’s duty alone to make that happen. This, of course, does not prove an easy task. In the demanding, complex world in which warrior’s live, the buzzword “balance” may not seem realistically possible. However, mindful family leaders look for opportunities to surge on meeting the needs of loved ones. Even brief but genuine efforts result in time well spent and can make a lasting impact.
Family Vs. Military
Consider family relationships versus military involvement from a perspective of time. Relatively few individuals spend 20 or more years in the uniform. However, family relationships (hopefully) last for many more decades. Just like a row of dominos, the warrior’s choices have second and third order effects on family members. Even inaction produces real effects.
Sadly, I have sat with numerous spouses, usually wives but not always, who shared through tears the reality of their family life. Even as their spouse enjoyed meaningful activity and status in the uniform, the personal side of their family life hung in shreds. Clearly to the weeping wife, something else was more important to her warrior than the family.
Perhaps it is about survival, perhaps fear of failure, or perhaps genuine dedication to the organization. Whatever the case, too often warriors succumb to various temptations which war against one’s duty to family. No one gets this one right all the time, but it is a struggle we can absolutely win. When the time for military service is over, we will want our loved ones to be there.
Fight for Family
As much as I desire to encourage strong personal relationships, reality demonstrates that many families do not hold together. Damaging words are spoken, harmful choices get made,
and many relationships experience a downward trajectory. An officer once conveyed to me that despite his professional success, looking back he saw a theme of broken personal relationships. As his time in uniform came to an end, he felt very much alone. Does that paint a true picture of success or duty fulfilled? I believe we can do better. I often tell soldiers that I never meet anyone who’s life turned out the way they imagined. This is true of relationships as well. Whatever happened in the past is done, but let us look to the road ahead and identify meaningful ways to fulfill our duty to loved ones.
Fight for your family like David’s soldiers. It is what warriors do.