Just before the battle Captain James looked over his troops and smiled. A number of them were seasoned warriors, battle-scarred and victorious; they’d stand at the forefront. A half dozen other troops, new to the King & Cause, he would put in the middle. They’d all had basic training and now joined the ranks, but they needed to improve their skills in an actual battle. Some were young and might become weary with heavy hand-to-hand combat against the foe; he didn’t want to see them blown away in the first skirmish so he placed them at the rear.
He noticed Frankie making practice thrusts with his sword. Frankie was one of the new recruits, on fire for the Cause, though some would call his nature bold and brash. He had a tendency to swing his weapon and his words a little carelessly, knocking a few noses out of joint at times, but this zeal was slowly being tempered by concern for the outfit as a whole.
“Frankie’s learning to be a team player,” James told his Aide one day. “I can see great potential. I really like his enthusiasm–just hope he doesn’t lose it all.”
“I think you should place Penny in the line-up next to Frankie for this next battle,” his Aide said. “She has an important lesson to learn this time.”
“You’re right,” said the Captain. “On the surface Penny seems like a timid sort, but I suspect she still has a lot of self-centredness to overcome. Too wrapped up in her own feelings. I’m really hoping that experiencing the glories of the war and seeing victories won will encourage her to stop focusing so much on herself and put her heart into the Cause.”
“Maybe seeing Frankie’s enthusiasm will draw her out, too,” he added. “Otherwise I wonder how long she’ll stand up as a soldier for the Lord. There’s no way any soldier can avoid conflict and a battlefield isn’t a bed of roses.” Captain James had done his best to prepare his troops, but in the heat of battle soldiers either toughened up or were fried. How would Penny react under fire?
He gave a few last instructions, then shouted, “Forward, March!” They were on their way to face the foe.
The field was hazy that day. Frankie, sword upright, thought he saw an enemy approaching from the left, close to Penny, and took a hefty swing in that direction. The enemy soldier nimbly jumped back and the tip of Frankie’s sword gave Penny a jab. Blood started to trickle down her arm.
“I’ve been wounded,” she shrieked.
“I am so sorry,” Frankie gasped. “I was trying to protect you.”
“But you wounded me,” she wailed.
“Look, everybody,” she yelled. “Frankie wounded me. Look at all this blood!” A few of the rear soldiers stopped to look at her arm.
Several front line soldiers, already full of gashes and stabs, turned to assess her injury. One said sympathetically, “I’m sorry this happened, but it’s not that serious. Just hold up your sword and concentrate on fighting the enemy.”
“But I’ve been WOUNDED, “ she screamed. “Look, my blood is pouring out!”
Captain James hurried over. He frowned at the minor injury and wondered how best to deal with the whimpering Penny. “If you can’t keep on fighting, then you’d better hurry to the Great Physician’s tent. He can heal it.”
“But I can’t. I’m wounded – just look at all this blood! And the pain is unbearable. There’s no way I can walk back to His tent. Someone will have to carry me.”
“I’ll help,” Frankie volunteered.
“Don’t you touch me, you jerk! You’ve caused enough trouble already.”
“But there was an enemy soldier right ready to slice you in half,” Frankie protested. “At least I thought I saw one.”
“Oh, yeah, right. You thought. You are SO careless.”
With a sigh Captain James called two of his strongest men. “Can you take her back behind the lines and leave her in the hands of the Great Physician.”
“But Captain, we can’t hardly spare any men,” another soldier said. “We won’t be able to take the enemy bunker and rescue the prisoners they’ve captured.”
“We have to protect our own troops, too. We must get her off the battlefield; the enemy will cut her to ribbons if she just stands here. You and Mike go with her; if needs be, pick her up and carry her.”
“The crybaby. She’s got two good legs; she can walk,” Mike grumbled.
“But I’ve been wounded,” Penny wailed. “How can I be expected to walk? Don’t you guys have any compassion? When I get back to headquarters I’m requesting a transfer.”
“It’s all my fault,” Frankie moaned. “I should have been more careful. But I really thought I was helping her. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a soldier?” He tossed his sword down.
Captain James put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Frankie, the King called you and you enlisted, so of course you’re cut out to be a soldier. In every war there are wounded people–and some are a lot more easily wounded than others. But don’t let this discourage you or I’ll be out TWO soldiers. Pick up your sword and do the best you can. We have a war to fight.”
So Frankie grabbed his sword and hurried to join the battle again, resolving to be more careful in future.
Right then an enemy soldier sneaked up behind Captain James and whispered. “You are one lousy commander. You should never have put those two beside each other. Because of your poor decision one of your soldiers is down and another may feel so guilty he’ll give up the fight, too.”
The Captain ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah. Maybe it is my fault. I should have arranged them differently.” He fell to his knees and cried, “Lord forgive me!”
His Aide hurried over and put the enemy soldier to flight. He took the Captain by the arm, lifted him up and gave him a kind pat on the back. “Don’t listen to his lies. You did your best, Sir. And the Great Physician is well able to heal her.”
“If she wants it badly enough. I hate to say it, but some folks seem to take a strange delight in their pain. Their moment of glory, kind of.”
“Well, let’s hope she rallies. The Great Physician will do His utmost to work with her.”
Meanwhile, back on the medical bench by the Great Physician’s tent, Penny sat watching her blood drip on the ground and re-examining the pain of it all. She wished the Great Physician would show up once and heal her. By and by another soldier joined her on the bench. He had a gaping head wound and one arm was almost severed.
“Man, are you ever bleeding,” Penny said, sliding farther down the bench. She didn’t need his blood splattering on her yet, too.
“Caught in major enemy fire. I’m needing the Great Physician real bad,” he said weakly.
“I do, too. See this deep wound, all this blood. Got it from a fellow soldier, too. Supposed to be, anyway. I think he’s a real yoyo.”
“My only son was killed by a drunk driver. Never fought such a battle in my life. But I won!” The man’s eyes shone. “I was able to forgive that young man.
“You forgave him? The scum! He didn’t deserve it.”
“Maybe not, but I need healing for the pain I’m feeling every day – and I wouldn’t be here getting that help if I were still so bin the awful pit of bitterness. I’m so thankful to be delivered from that place!”
“Besides, everybody needs forgiveness once in awhile,” he added. “Really, none of us deserve it.”
Penny frowned. He sounded weird; must be that head wound was muddling his thinking. She returned her gaze to her wound; thankfully it was still dripping. The Great Physician needed to see just how bad it was.
Awhile later she looked up and saw the man who’d been beside her walking away, erect and pain-free even though his one arm was gone. Right then a horrible thought came to her: what if she ’d need to have her arm amputated, too? She sure hoped Frankie got a few good slashes himself. He needed to suffer, too.
But the Great Physician must have come by and she hadn’t noticed. Why hadn’t she seen Him. Why wasn’t His voice loud enough for her to hear? Or had He not called her? Didn’t He care about her? She could bleed to death sitting here.
Penny didn’t realize that the Great Physician HAD come by, at least a dozen times, and gently called her name. She was so focused on her injury she hadn’t even noticed. She’s still sitting there waiting to be healed.
Story by Christine Goodnough, Originally posted July 11, 2012