This past weekend I went on an incredible Father/Son retreat with my sons. The event was put on by and organization called “Lead with Character” (www.leadwithcharacter.com), which is led Steve Maye, who is an incredible communicator and leader. Lead with Character is a Christian organization and they do a phenomenal job of teaching principles of biblical manhood while traveling to different Civil War battlefields and using the stories of the battles to illustrate their 7 principles of biblical manhood. The whole experience was one of the best things I’ve ever done as a dad with my 2 boys. In addition to learning a lot about character and history, we all had a ton of fun as well.
One of the men that Steve Maye talked a lot about was Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a general for the South during the Civil War. I had already learned a lot about Jackson as a boy since my dad was a rabid Civil War buff and Stonewall was probably his favorite general from which to read. I even did a research paper on Stonewall Jackson in High School. You can’t help but love the man. He helped start churches, loved Jesus, and overcame incredible adversity in life to achieve much. He was as compassionate as he was brave, as well as a brilliant leader on the battlefield. You can’t talk about the early victories of the Confederacy without talking a lot about Stonewall and his brigade.
One of the reasons why Stonewall Jackson was such an incredible general was his ability to move quickly to fight. No military personnel moved faster than the Stonewall brigade. Many nights he and his men would bivouac (pronounced biv-wack) as they traveled to the next battle. To bivouac means you sleep on the ground with simply a blanket or sack under the stars. Setting up tents would take too long and impede movement for the next day. In God’s providence, Jackson was killed in 1862, months before the battle of Gettysburg, which was the turning point in the War.
On our last day of the trip, Steve, our guide and leader told us a story about Jackson’s men that still stirs a lot of emotions in me. In 1891, almost 30 years after his death, the state of Virginia was dedicating a memorial statue in honor of General Jackson in his home town of Lexington. They invited all the remaining survivors of the Stonewall brigade and made sure that they had enough rooms in houses and hotels to accommodate the visiting veterans. Around midnight, the day before the dedication ceremony, not one of the old men could be found in the rooms set aside for them. Eventually they found the men by the statue in the center of the cemetery. They pleaded for these men, many in their 60s and 70s to return to the rooms reserved for them. One of them responded with these famous words, “Thank you sirs, but we’ve slept around him many a night on the battlefield, and we want to bivouac once more with Old Jack.”
Every time I read that, my soul is moved. Yes, it’s a touching anecdote about a beloved general and his men, but to me the power of that story lies in how I’m forced to look at my love and affection toward my Savior and leader, Jesus. Jesus is so much greater than Jackson ever was, and He’s not found in a memorial statue in the middle of a cemetery, He’s alive. I’m broken when I hear that story because, many times, I’m not willing to bivouac with my Lord when He is leading me out to the edges of the world. Our leader is one who is outside the camp (Heb. 13) and calling us to go with Him to the needy, the broken, the hurting, the addicted, and the lost. I don’t bivouac because I love my comfort and security more than I love being with my Savior and fighting with Him for the souls of men.
I need to risk more. I want to risk more. Risking comfort, security, and reputation looks different for all of us. To some it may mean leaving your job and moving to India to plant a church among an unreached people group. For others, it means walking across the street and invited a family over for a meal. The mission of God looks different for all us, but the end of it all is the same – introducing people to Jesus.
Jesus is moving in people and places that we haven’t even thought of yet. I’m hoping that tomorrow I’ll be willing to go with Him. And I’ll learn how to bivouac with Jesus.