Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Sixth Labor of the Stymphalian Birds

During this labor, Hercules will have to have the help of the gods (again!). The birds are too fierce to fight directly, and they nest in the reedy, dark, swampy woods. But the divine noisemaker is gifted to him by Athena (a brass device made by Haephestus). Using this, he raises them in flight, and he slays them with the arrows he gained against the Lion. Likewise, the Christian will need the aid of the full armor of God. I think I've mentioned this before, but just putting on the helmet of salvation will get you speared in the gizzard. Let me be more explicit. In the spiritual life, you grow, or you "die". God will often hold us at a step for years, decades even, until we "humble ourself under His mighty hand". He doesn't have a checklist that you can tick things off on at your leisure. It's a test. Or, more aptly, a quest. There is a path, and if you can't guess the riddle, or perform the three feats, or have a vision, you will wait there until you are sufficiently humble to sense your lack and need to do so. After that, it's easy, at least by comparison. Heaven is taken by storm, but not by warriors with tin-pot hats of easy salvation, or tin-foil hats of easy believism. The gods, the angels, the saints, the messengers...these are part of your quest too. And there are not so nice counterparts. And this is why the whole armor is requisite. Yet nothing is so imperative as the objective, and nothing so energizing or powerful as our Lord. It's just that a story has these details, and getting the details right are important. So don't forget that sanctification is more important (in a sense) than "justification". And don't forget that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, and that some have entertained angels unawares.

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