I rode on a motorcycle for the first time the other day. It was a rash decision, which is very unlike me but very much like Katniss. As I sat there, clinging to the driver, I thought what the hell am I doing? I’m flying through the dark, going 60 mph up the deadliest highway in the nation, wearing a t-shirt for protection.
I pictured the Grim Reaper pulling up next to me on his death-cycle, fueled by fresh souls, my hand involuntarily shooting out to give him the middle finger. He just shakes his head wrong move, lunchmeat.
I’m going to die.
And yet, in the very next second, I was filled with total calm – almost an indifference.
Whatevs, if I fall off, I’ll just tuck and roll, like Katniss would do. If my arm gets all torn up and riddled with gravel, I’ll just make a salve from native plants and tie my bra over it. No big deal.
Who is this Katniss and why is she making me so stupid?
I’ve been reading the Hunger Games and who knew I would see reflections of God in a tween book series? I don’t want to ruin it for others, so quick synopsis: it’s a futuristic series about a girl named Katniss who is chosen to participate in The Hunger Games, which is her country’s take on the gladiator games. She and 27 other children are thrown into the woods to fight to the death for the entertainment of wealthy spectators who watch via hidden camera.
Twisted, politically charged and totally addictive.
It’s been putting me in this weird combative/survivalistic mindset. I see everything as a challenge, an obstacle to destroy. I imagine my life as a battle and somedays that doesn’t feel so far off.
Sometimes you go through something so horrific that, by human instinct, you build armors around your soul. You bury your most precious selves so they won’t get damaged. You grow scaly shields of sarcasm. You go numb. You barb your words. You retreat quietly. You hurt before you can be hurt. You hide. Psychologists say that these types of reactions can be lumped into two categories: fight or flight. I think we all like to think we are fighters – that we’d win the Hunger Games if such a thing existed. But the truth is it is much easier to flight - to hide - and at times, just seems smarter, safer.
I told a friend I saw myself in Katniss and she said she was hesitant to say so, but that she thought the same thing. At first, I was flattered. I am such a badass. Until her words sunk in. I was hesitant to tell you. In the end, Katniss isn’t really a character to be admired. She is a survivor – but because she deals in cowardice, manipulation and apathy. What I first saw as courage on her part ends up seeming like recklessness. She is someone who has nothing to lose. And that's not someone I want to become.
I was talking to my mom recently, telling her about my battles. Telling her how weary I feel. How I feel constantly under attack. And she reminded me that at the end of the day, people who chase God have an enemy in this world. There’s a powerful darkness that resists goodness, grace and love. It would be stupid to act like there isn’t – there’s evidence all around us. We’re all in some form of turmoil. She reminded me of my Sunday school days, learning about the armor of God. How it’s real- it’s not just a silly teaching tool.
And the Katniss in me sat up to listen.
My mom said the first thing you notice about the armor of God is that it leaves your back exposed. Apparently, God didn’t create us and equip us to retreat. He prepared us for a fight.
And this is somewhat startling to me.
I guess I associate fighting with rash people, with angry people, with reckless people. I guess I thought that angry people fought and Christians loved. Christians surrendered. Christains said “well, God has a plan in this”.
We use a lot of soft words in American Christianity and maybe it’s because we live in a country with serious relational voids, but it ends up making me feel weak. Like amidst all of the meekness and forgiveness and Grace and humility, the word “fight” feels too sharp. But the more I learn about love the more I realize that real love – not romantic comedy love or soft, spineless love, but Bible love-is synonymous with strength, with battling and grappling and FIGHTING.
In His words to us, God tends to place love in direct contrast to fear, time and time again. Sociologist Robert Griffith Turner tells us “you must choose love or fear, you cannot have a little of each.”
Love is not passive. Love is not a retreat. Love is not hiding.
Love is fighting.
Jesus – the physical embodiment of Love- left us with armor. He gave us belts of truth and breastplates of righteousness and swiftness that comes from the Gospel of peace and shields of faith and helmets of salvation and swords of the Spirit – not so that we can haul them off to some cave and wait out the pain and hide from our attackers. He left us all of that stuff so that we can fight through this life. He says in Ephesians “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” In other words, fight until you have nothing left…and then fight some more.
I’ve heard it said “be kinder than necessary – every person you meet is fighting some sort of battle”. I believe this. The bad things in this world don’t just happen to us. We were thrown into this arena for a reason. If you’re running from your battle, thinking it’s safer, smarter, more self- preserving, more Christian to hide, hear me when I say this:
turn around and fight.
Fight for the things that truly, in-the-name-of-Love-ingly matter.
Fight for your family. Fight for your marriage. Fight for your sanity. Fight for your relationships. Fight for unity. Fight for wholeness. Fight for forgiveness. Fight for justice. Fight for growth. Fight for your health. Fight for joy.
Because at the end of the day, you weren't meant to be a Katniss. You were created to fight for things that matter- not because you have nothing to lose, but because in a world of thieves that come to kill and destroy, He chose to give you life. and He died so you could live it to its fullest. Hiding and retreating doesn't count as living.
He’s given you everything you need. Now say a prayer and turn around.