I've been watching a TV series called Vikings, following the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok and his band of fierce vikings as they fight, love and adventure their way across Europe. The series is fictional but based on the norse legends of an at least partly-historical warrior king called Ragnar Lothbrok.
In this TV series the vikings fervently believe that their place in Valhalla is secured by dying in battle. Warfare is not something to be feared, but relished as either a means of acquiring wealth and land or securing their place in paradise. And so they rush joyfully and fearlessly into the fray, more afraid of dying in their beds than on the battleground. This makes them a terrible force, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
In the episode I watched yesterday, season 3 episode 9 I believe, the vikings are attacking Paris (an historical event from the 9th century apparently). The warfare has turned against them and it looks like the vikings will be repelled. At this point Ragnar's son enters the fray, climbing up the siege ladders as his comrades are fleeing and dying. Seeing his son advance into almost certain death Ragnar runs, not to dissuade him but to join him in the fight.
The image that struck me was Ragnar, a hopeless lone man at this point, descending onto a horde of the enemy. In his eyes is a look of fierce determination, and the joy of battle. This is what he was born for! And he enters the melee with fury, scattering the French before him until he is finally thrown from the walls.
Christianity, renowned as a religion of love and peace, is also full of the imagery of war. Put on the whole armour of God, we fight not against flesh and blood but against evil, the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, and many more. My church is even called The Jesus Army.
Life is hard. It can feel like constant hand-to-hand combat at times. It's a struggle to find meaning, a struggle to bear responsibilities, a struggle to love, a struggle to know what to do and a struggle to find God in it all. But that spirit that Ragnar carried is what I want. A struggle or not, life is all we have. So let's descend upon the struggle with the joy of battle in our hearts and in our eyes. Through the mess, the difficulty, the wounds and the pain, let's enter the melee with energy and fury. Let us be terrible and magnificent. If not this then what is the alternative. To sit back and let life be something that happens to us? I refuse. I will be something that happens to life.
There's nothing else, no other option but to fight. If we can't find a joy in this, then we can't find joy at all. So rejoice in the warfare, descend upon the enemy without fear - for to die in battle secures your eternal victory! Death is not the enemy, the only defeat is retreat, to give up. Fight my brothers and sisters fight, whatever your battle, whatever your struggle, gird your loins, lick your wounds but pick up your axe. We have a war to win, and a warrior king to lead us!