What is a Tin Soldier?

A few years ago I had an experience which would serve as a great illustration of a contemporary spiritual dilemma…

I had just finished my first year of college.  It was a beautiful summer Saturday in southern California, and I met up with a group of friends to go to the beach in celebration.  My friends and I-six of us in all-made our way down the rocky trail and onto the sand, then sprinted to the water.

It was the day after a big storm.  The break was imposing, with waves up to eight feet.  My friends and I dove through the powerful surf until we made it past the break point, where there were calmer waters.  We frolicked, splashed and treaded water, basking in the glory of the summer, forgetting our surroundings for a couple of minutes.  It was perfect.  Perfect, that was, until we turned around and saw that we were a hundred yards from the shore.

My friends and I were caught in a brutal rip current that was pulling us out to sea.

That was when we came up with a genius plan: We were going to swim as hard as we could against the tide.  For the next two minutes I chugged and stroked and kicked with all my might.  And at the end of those two minutes I looked up, and realized I had not gained an inch, and even worse, I was actually almost a quarter-mile from shore.

Dead tired, I started to panic.  I looked over at my friend Joe, and noticed he was having trouble keeping his head above water.  As he slipped under the surface, he called out my name and shouted, “help!”

I quickly swam over to him and pulled him toward me.  He was huffing and puffing, coughing and spitting.  I told him we were going to be okay.  The problem was, I didn’t totally believe it.  My limbs felt like anvils, and there was no way I could swim for both of us.  What were we going to do?  I started to lose it.  I began to pray for a miracle.

Seconds later, out of nowhere, a long-boarder appeared, speeding towards us like a hovercraft.  Maybe he emerged from Atlantis.  Maybe he parachuted in.  He was probably angel, in retrospect.

We grabbed onto his board and began praising the heavens.  We celebrated with hugs and screams as the surfer informed us of a little piece knowledge that would have served us well about fifteen minutes prior: The worst thing you can do in a riptide is swim against it.  When you fight, you drown.  The only choice you have is to surrender to the current.  Relax, and let it take you.  Then, swim parallel to the shore, where the normal current will carry you back to the beach.  The key is to stay with the flow, and you will survive.

This episode provides a hint, through analogy, at the source of many of our dilemmas.  God has a channel, a current, which will lead us where we are supposed to go, where we were created to go.  But instead of allowing the tide to take us, we have been swimming against it.  And in the process, we are drowning.

See, whether we are aware of it or not, many of us have been fighting God, fists up, resisting his plan to transform us from our hopeless, apathetic, purposeless, addicted selves into something much better.  We box him in many ways…

*We battle against Him when we seek comfort and convenience over discipline and obedience.

*We battle against Him when we medicate and distract ourselves from our hurts.

*We battle against Him when pride and ego motivate us to put ourselves above others.

*We battle against Him when we forget He has gifted us uniquely and intentionally to do something powerful in the lives of others.

*We battle against Him when we allow stress and fear to control us.

*We battle against Him when we resist maturity.

*We battle against Him when we think popularity, fame, or recognition by our peers will bring us happiness.

*And most of all, we battle against Him when we forget one very important fact about the life of faith:

God cares more about the people we are  more than anything else.

And yet, character is the thing we seem to have the most difficult time with as a generation.  We don’t know who we are or where we are going, and we do little to change our situation.  We lack drive and passion, and replace direction with distraction and addiction.    We make decisions based on convenience, rather than character.  It is no wonder that so many of us feel lost.

To change our situation, we must begin with John 15:1-2:

                  I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

In order to find what we are looking for, we must first become the people He desires us to be.  In other words, our character must take precedence over all else in our lives.  And in order to find righteous character, we must stay connected to the vine, intimately and daily.  We must relent to transformation.  This is the goal of our existence, and it must take precedence over all else.  Otherwise, we will be lost.

The only way to do this is to drop our fists…

In what ways do you fight God?  And how do you think this affects your spiritual life?

Andrew Schwab is an artist, author, and speaker.  You can read samples and purchase his new book The Tin Soldiers in print here, as an eBook here, and read samples here.

About Andrew Schwab

Andrew Schwab is the author of five books and has written for publications which include Relevant Magazine, Time/Life, HM, CCM, and Alternative Press. He has spoken at over two hundred festivals, conferences, churches, schools, and fellowships all over the world. His band, Project 86, has sold nearly 500,000 albums worldwide.

  • Alan Cutler

    First I love the new Project 86 album, thank you for your dedication to God and walking the walk. In regards to your post about fighting God, I could not agree more. I spent 2/3 of my 46 years on earth fighting God and many of those years I did not even realize that I was. I was a alcoholic and drug addict up until 11 years ago, when I finally had my ah-ha moment and surrendered. When I was in treatment I learned a great little saying, “It is much easier to ride in the truck beside Jesus, rather than being dragged behind the truck.” Bottom line, God has a place for us and if we are saved, we will always be heading in that direction, how long and how comfortable that trip is as most things are is our choice. I look forward to reading further blogs and will be ordering your book shortly.

    God Bless,
    Alan D. Cutler MA, CAP (intern)

  • Ruben

    Nice read! I only don’t get the part where you say medicating our self is is battling against God. If I hadn’t used medication last week when I fell down like 6 meters I would have been in terrible pain. I don”t think God likes it for me to be in pain. That’s why there are plants on the earth and ways to make other medicine to help each other to overcome pain. I of course know that, in this way you could be forgetting God since, well, the medicine did the job right?

    I thanked God that there were people made by God who made this medicine. I thanked God that he helped me releive the pain in this way. anyway. I don’t think medication is a bad thing.

  • Jeremy Sherman

    Awesome insight! God is our current and that analogy has powerful insight about how God carries us. God listens but so do we have to listen to His voice and calling.

  • http://benjskramer.wordpress.com benyamen

    Great to see you on Patheos! I’ve appreciated your thoughts and insights for 15 years now and look forward to reading what you’ll contribute here.

  • Mark

    Much like the long boarder from heaven, your message is exactly what I needed to hear today. Fists down now. Thank you and praise God!

  • Andrew Schwab

    Ruben, it is not in reference to medicine for illness or physical ailment. It is in reference to medicating our emotional pain with drugs, alcohol, porn, or other vice that is destructive.

    • Ruben

      Thank you for your reply Andrew. Now it makes a sense to me!

  • susan

    We battle against God when we acknowledge Him but then ignore Him.

  • Caleb Mitchell

    Andrew, I truly enjoyed reading this post; not only because it was well thought out and written, but because it struck a chord within my Spirit. It is too often that I find myself battling against what I know is the truth in Christ that I should find peace, comfort, and rest in, as opposed to the bitterness and anger i have when I feel out of control. I have fought God on so many issues like having the faith to know He will provide for me and my family and having the peace to know that His plan will take me to where I’ve been called to. And it is truly like you said “God has a channel, a current, which will lead us where we are supposed to go, where we were created to go.” when we surrender and let God move us in His power and timing we will be ok. But I think that another point that could have been made within the metaphor is the fact that you let the current move you back towards shore, but it still takes effort and work on our part to continue the forwards progress. Nothing will ever get done in our lives if we are complacent to sit back and simply float, that is one of the plagues of our society is the complacency to be pushed without focus. Rather lengthy comment but I wished to say thank you for bringing this topic to my mind to think on and work on. Look forward to the rest of your posts to come.

  • Chris

    I have defined a few character core values in my life over the years.
    First, Relationship is Communication. You gotta talk to people….
    Second I learned from Jesus, and my dad; Love is Sacrifice. We get what we don’t deserve and that’s grace but if you really love someone, you gotta lose something.
    Third, Practice Discipline. Evey second of every day we are practicing something. Is it laziness and apathy, or discipline?
    Four goes along with discipline. Responsibility to Integrity. We are our word. “Our word is our bond.” Leadership is Integrity.
    Five- Heaven is Home. Not Nebraska, Not USA, Not this world. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
    And last may seem quite familiar to you. Trust is Obedience.