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After landing his invasion forces on the shores of some country, the 16th Century Spanish conquistador Cortes would immediately burn his own boats. He was sending his army a message: ‘We can’t turn back. Either we succeed here or we die here.’ Excuses were not an option.
— Lou Holtz

Galatians 3:26-29
Ephesians 2:11-18
1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Before Paramount served him divorce papers, Tom Cruise starred in a few flicks. One was the picturesque, though critically panned, “Far And Away.” Without delving into the story, the film’s central image portrays Cruise’s character staking a flag in the dirt of Oklahoma amidst a land rush. For a moment, the camera focuses on this banner.

Like a wedding band, the symbol represents an inner pledge. This mere flag declared that someone had claimed this land. Someone had decided to work it, to sweat and bleed over it, and to live or die by its success.

I think of this image often. When choices present themselves, to proceed or withdraw, to advance or retreat, to give up or give all, I think of this image. It comes in the pursuit of a degree or job; a commitment to an envisioned goal in athletics; the move to a new and occasionally terrifying city or country; and especially in relationships.

Staking a flag in the ground says, “This is mine. I’m responsible for it, and I choose to remain here. I choose to share all, to know and to be known.” The claim pronounces, “I’ll know you, all of you: the frightening and unacceptable parts as well as the glorious and spectacular. I’ll allow you to know all of me as well. This is my pledge.”

We avoid such bold strokes of living. “That’s personal,” we say to our friends. When did these couple of words become acceptable among friends? Is friendship not the most personal aspect of life, where we are most fully persons? Can we not begin to speak of the unmentionables of life? If not in friendship, where? We shouldn’t have to pay someone to tell us the truth about who we are.

The most personal act we can choose is a life of friendship. Life together requires a claim. It requires a stake in the ground, a flag for you and others to see.  It demands your intention, your purposefulness, your shouting from hilltops, “I’m here! To fight and live and even die for this!”

We each have our own land to claim. It rests in the bonds of family and friendships all about us. But it is each of ours to stake out, not to wait to inherit. Let us choose it as our own. Let us go there willing to die.

With whom have you chosen to speak about everything in your heart and mind?
What keeps you from doing so with anyone?  With more than one?
Will you choose to allow someone to know all of you?  Will you accept all of them?


© 2006