Tuesday, January 03, 2012

War Horse

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares..." Isaiah 2:4

War Horse offers a unique perspective on the First World War: seeing the bloody trench battles, the harrowing impact on the local population, and the tragedy of nations torn apart by violence, all through the lens of a simple country horse.

Joey, as the horse is called by its first owner Albert (Jeremy Irvine), is a gifted animal who is stronger and wiser than most everyone gives the creature credit for being. And due to this exceptionalism, Joey soon becomes a wanted horse - and is drafted into military service once the war breaks out in 1914.

What is remarkable is the impact this simple horse has on all the various owners it has throughout the war: it brings an air of peace, selflessness, confidence, and compassion in the midst of such bitter violence and hatred.

Could it be because so many people have a soft spot for horses? Or is there some internal urge for peace that this animal brings forth?

Consider that the first major task of this horse was a peaceful act: to plow a field so that people can eat and a family could survive their poverty. In some respects, this simple action defined what this horse was about - not being a lowly beast of war but a gallant horse of peace. Perhaps all the owners of this horse, whether they be English captains, French families, or German soldiers, heard in Joey the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "In the days to come...They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks" (Is. 2:4)

Could it be that the horse reminded them that violence and anger is nothing compared to the promise of peace?

What is it, for us, that reminds us of Christ's call to nonviolence and love? Is it a loving family member, or a special token from our childhood, or is it a prayer we say to ourselves or a piece of art that calls out to us? Is it a Scripture passage or a song? Or do we have such things in our life?

War Horse reminds us to keep around us items, people, and experiences that call to mind the Gospel. For the various characters of the movie, the horse was that token. What will that be for us?

For when we surround ourselves with items that remind us of Christ, the Gospel, and his message of nonviolence, peace, and unconditional love, we become infused with that same energy. (conversely, when we surround ourselves with objects that speak of hatred, violence, and war, we are affected by them as well). This is why we fill our churches with images that call to mind the Gospel. This is why we fill our homes with items that remind us of love. This is why we fill our lives with people that make us disciples of the Lord.

Joey was able to bring a ray of peace into one of the darkest chapters in human history - so what is it that will carry us through our own darkest hours? Hold close to whatever that might be - and you'll be able to make it through your own war.

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