Special Forces In Action

creativity fireworks

It was my first mission leading a special forces team. I was out front, because I knew the territory. Our unit needed to move over open fields, bouncing around overgrown bushes and taking cover behind trees. Mixing caution and speed, my heart rate was up slightly, but under control.

Our objective was to disable a supply shipment that would be heading west in the valley stretching wide in front of us. Using laser-guided rockets, we would have one shot. There would be an unknown number of support vehicles, with an unknown number of personnel. While prepared to engage, we would prefer to simply remain in stealth mode. Our unit would be a scalpel, not a saw. 

We were on time, and so was the target. We heard it before we saw it. Rumbling down the road, the diesel truck belched smoke and sound, oblivious that we were stationed on the slight hill above. I counted two vehicles in front and another one behind. 

With silent eye contact and practiced dexterity, our team loaded the rocket, removed the safety and engaged the targeting system. The final go/no go was now in my hands. I took a breath, eyed the target, and pulled the trigger. 

It happened in seconds, but I remember it in slow motion. With a whoosh, the missile leapt from the cylinder and streaked across the open field. The rig rolled forward at full speed, unaware that it was being hunted. 

Impact. A direct hit. Mission accomplished. 

I turned to my younger brother, his eyes wide in amazement, and watched him sprint back over the driveway. I was not far behind. Abandoning the coke bottle and the blue box of matches under the walnut tree, I too was in full retreat. And in full elation. My bottle rocket actually hit a moving semi on our highway in front of our house!

It was 1983. I was a twelve year old boy with nothing to do. Summer rolled on day after day. Boredom forced my imagination to create, and (since I was twelve) that creativity naturally involved danger. It seemed perfectly rational to shoot leftover fireworks at semis, and it was even better when it smacked the back of the trailer, dropped a couple feet, and then exploded with a satisfying “pop” over the highway. 

Nearly four decades later, summer is rolling along for me much like it did in 1983. Boredom is killing it again in 2020. I’ve found entertainment watching marble racing because there’s nothing on ESPN. I’ve had to buy a propane fire pit because fires are forbidden while camping. And I’m unable to follow through on all the grand plans and vacations and experiences that my extroverted Enneagram Seven could come up with. I hate it. 

Pondering this, I realize that I’m playing it safe. My creativity has dried up, along with the danger of putting myself out there. This has nothing to do with physical distancing, working from home or wearing a mask at Costco. I may not like that part of life right now, but I get it. This has more to do with my inner health. 

What I’m seeing is that my heart is settling into a disturbing rhythm that is free from risk. I find myself eliminating the “evil henchmen” in Fortnite on my son’s Xbox as a way to drip some adrenaline into my bloodstream. I’ve pulled back like everyone else, but I’ve cut off too much. 

Where is my creativity? Where is the danger? Surely it can be found in engagement with others, especially those living in the walls of my quarantined home. Surely it can be found in the discipline of working out, cleaning up or finally finishing the door knobs in my basement. Surely it can be found in chasing hard after a God who may or may not show up in the way I want Him to.

For me, this season has been an awkward and unfortunate mix of “caution and speed.” Not enough forward movement in areas that matter, with too much activity in areas that don’t. Maybe you know what I mean? Do you find yourself in a similar place?

What I need is to once again gather a special forces team for support, and then engage the right people, tackle the right tasks, and chase a living God. 

My brother and I took down a semi in 1983. It’s time to brother up and take down some real targets in 2020. Are you with me?


Bart Lillie 
Restoration Project Chief Catalyst

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