Thursday, October 23, 2008
Tag you're in!
A recent retreat for the men of our church included a paintball competition that was eye opening on several different points.
The safety equipment consisted solely of a plastic helmet with goggles.
Eye opener #1: I guess our mothers were right when they identified the salient danger in shooting activities as being the loss of an eye. (One of our guys discovered that other protective gear a little farther south on the anatomy might have been a good idea as well. Can’t believe nobody thought of THAT ahead of time.)
Our rules of engagement for the fast paced games of capture the flag on a relatively small course, were pretty simple: All participants had to start with a hand touching their home base. At a given signal competition began. The winning team was the first team to grab the white flag hanging from a stick in the middle of the course and return said flag to their home base. The only other rule stated that (obviously) if you’re hit by a paintball, you’re out, but if anyone from your team touches you after you’re hit, you’re back in the game.
At the opening signal my teammates and I sprinted for the makeshift barricades strewn randomly around the course, firing wildly in the general direction of the flock of enemy players flying headlong from their own home base. Paintballs zzzinnnnged from the barrel of my weapon, hooking and slicing with a randomness reminiscent of my few disastrous golf outings.
Eye-opener #2: The fear of stepping into the line of paint pellet fire made all of us appreciate the courage veterans in our group must possess to have faced live rounds from real enemies.
It only took about 30 seconds for me to get thwapped in the appendix by a lucky shot from one of my fellow men’s ministry “brothers” on the other team.
“I’m HIT!” I said, using the designated sign of holding a hand up. That’s when I realized that I was separated from my teammates by at least 10 yards. No one even looked my direction. They were all focused rather intently on the battle before them, firing their weapons and squeezing themselves as tightly as possible behind what little cover they had found.
Eye opener #3: (And this one is a life lesson) Your teammates have their own battles to fight and skin to save, so keeping a big distance between you and them means when you’re hit, you may be out of action for a while.
I knelt there, powerless to help, as the bad guys steadily gained ground over my outnumbered team. Suddenly one of the brothers on my team jumped from the safety of his wooden spool and dashed across the open ground toward me, slapping me rather rudely on the head and diving for a tree as bright balls of paint splattered all around.
I leapt forward to a spot alongside a teammate crouching behind a pallet and began firing anew. Almost immediately I was dinked on the head by another shot, but being so close to my teammate, he simply reached over, slapped my back (kinda hard), and I was instantly back in action.
Eye opener #4: (Another life lesson closely related to e.o. #3) The buddy system is the way to go if you want to stay in the game.
We “played” as long as we had paintballs to shoot. Afterwards we showed off our welts, laughed at each other’s war stories and headed back to the dorm. On the way back I couldn’t help wondering: if one of these men were shot down by a fiery dart from the enemy, is it possible that they might only require a simple compassionate touch from a brother willing to go out to them to get back in the battle?
Maybe that’s what Galatians 6:1 means, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
It's certainly worth a try.