August 10, 2007
“SWAT…56!” “WHAM…57!” “SLAP…58!” Throughout the night the sounds of the battle continued in repetitive cycles of fierce violence followed by the victorious cries of a valiant warrior adding up the bodies of the savage enemy who had fallen, crushed by a relentless barrage of strategic, deadly accurate blows. “WHACK…59!” “SLAM…60!” On and on the war raged with the enemy being significantly, systematically, and summarily smashed into oblivion. Blood and guts littered the battlefield, but still the enemy persisted in charging. “SPLAT…61!” “SQUISH…62!” Would this enemy ever surrender? Would this violence ever cease? Would we ever be able to rest in peace?
Where was this battle being fought and who were the combatants? Am I describing the ongoing conflict in the Middle East? No, actually this battle took place somewhere in the Midwest at a campground one summer in the 1950’s. My parents, two older brothers and I were in the midst of a cross-country automobile trip from our home in Idaho to my grandparent’s house in Indiana. It was my dad’s brilliant idea to save money by camping out along the way. It was supposed to be a lot of fun, and it was, until we discovered that campgrounds were the favorite habitat of the enemy. We had never before encountered an adversary quite so prolific and formidable. We had never before fought against a foe of such enormous size, possessing so much ferocity and voracious appetite. We had never before been up against the dreaded, gigantic, merciless Midwestern mosquito.
Their attack commenced at dusk driving us from the picnic table into the bunker of our canvas tent. Unfortunately, by the time we were all safely sheltered our clever opponent had successfully infiltrated our headquarters with dozens of suicide bombers committed to drawing our blood or dying in the attempt. With our backs against the canvas, trapped in our own makeshift bomb-shelter, illumined by our faithful Coleman lantern, we determined to make our last stand. It was here that the battle began to turn in our favor, the enemy body count began to rise, and a Hoffman legend was born.
Dad, of course, was the general who wielded the heavy artillery, our one and only flyswatter. SWAT…SLAM…POW! We all cheered with each report of an enemy kill. I bravely tried to inflict my own damage on the swarming beasts but my hands were too small, too slow, and too clumsy to be of much good. Most of the enemy’s flying aces seemed to congregate near the top of the tent, far out of reach for the flailing arms of three little boys.
“You guys need to get into your pajamas, crawl into bed and cover yourselves with your sleeping bags,” the general ordered his troops. “I’ll take care of the mosquitoes.”
Hour after agonizing hour, blow by tent-trembling blow, our fearless leader, our intrepid general, our loving, self-sacrificing father gave up his flesh and blood in a glorious fight to the finish—and emerged the conqueror. Although the years have dimmed my recollection of the details of that historic evening, I do remember the thrill of being a member of such a victorious army, the comfort which came from the ointment Mom mercifully spread on my itching bites, and the secure feeling of knowing I didn’t have to face the enemy alone. I’m not sure how many hours the battle raged. Long before the last salvo was fired and the last drop of blood was spilled, I succumbed to battle fatigue and the lateness of the evening and fell fast asleep. I’m also not certain of the final enemy body count. I know it was well over a hundred, but as the years have increased since the infamous mosquito war took place, so too has the body count. I do know this event is destined to live forever in the annals of the history of the Hoffman brigade, and at every reunion of such the incredible story of Dad’s one-man stand against all odds is told and retold.
Why have I shared this episode of my family’s glorious past with you? The parallels to our life in God’s family should be obvious. We, too, are under a continuous, relentless attack by a ferocious enemy, an adversary far too cunning and formidable for our small, clumsy attempts at defending ourselves. Fortunately, we have a valiant Warrior who has entered the battle for us, a fearless Leader, an intrepid General, a loving Father, a self-sacrificing Lord who gave up His own flesh and blood in a glorious fight to the finish—and emerged the Conqueror.
Although our victory has already been secured, the battle continues to be fought all around us. Once in a while an enemy agent is allowed to pass through our Hero’s hands and attack us. We feel the sting of sin followed by the inevitable itching of our consciences, or we are bitten by life’s trials and become swollen with grief, frustration, pain and uncert ainty. All such symptoms are consequences of being wounded on the battlefield. It is during these times when we so desperately need the church, our local brigade, our community MASH unit, where the healing salve of God’s mercy is applied. Here in our church family we are reminded that we are more than conquerors. Indeed, we have chosen the winning side and we can rest assured that we do not face this battle alone.
But most of this war is fought beyond our reach, in this “dark world” and “in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). In truth, we have no idea how high the enemy body count has risen in our defense. “SWAT…56!” “WHAM…1,000!” “SLAP…587,324!” We only know that every day our Commander-In-Chief tells us to cover ourselves with the blood of Christ and He will take care of the enemy’s sting. The sting of death is sin…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1Cor. 15:56-57.
I’m grateful that Dad has left me with a mental picture of my brave, ever-vigilant, heavenly Father faithfully swatting away at my enemy! He’s your Father, too, you know. Have you invited Him in to share your bomb shelter? Or, better yet, have you taken up residence with Him? If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. – Ps. 91:9-10.
But there’s another image I want to leave with you. A vision, not just of our Protector at work fending off all adversaries seeking to do us harm, but the serene scene of a small child sleeping soundly, peacefully, oblivious to danger, totally trusting in his loving Father, illumined by the light of his Dad’s amazing, self-sacrificing love, while all-out war rages above. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Ps. 4:8. “SWAT…6,000,000 and one!”
Good night, sleep tight, and please, Father, don’t let the mosquitoes bite!
Bill, a peaceful, trusting, victorious child of God