> Spirituality > Personal Growth

War Games

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Leiby Burnham

Life is best played with a strategy.

Panting, I dove behind the gnarled log hoping it would afford me protection from the three wildly firing guns pointed in my direction. My heart thumped harder and harder, threatening to jump out of my ribcage. I could hear the thwack of the projectiles slamming into the back of the log as the shooting continued relentlessly. I hugged the muddy ground a little tighter.

It had taken me the better part of ten minutes to get to the spot I now occupied. I hoped that the high ground and the protection of the log would give me the advantage over my attackers. But I had no illusions; I had a maximum of five minutes before they would split up and circle around me, using a common but effective Divide and Conquer strategy. I took a moment to reload making sure I had all the firepower I needed for this final showdown. From here on in it was Do or Die!

I peered around the edge of the log trying to make out the attackers' locations. Right away I spotted one of them, his leg sloppily protruding from behind a tree. I couldn't see him clearly, but he was obviously just a kid, maybe 15 or 16. I felt a tinge of guilt, but I would only shoot his leg. Besides, like I said, it was Do or Die! I aimed carefully, pulled the trigger twice and jumped back before the return fire could get me. I could hear him scream out, "I'm hit!" and at least now there would only be a two to one disadvantage. If I could only take out one more of them I could really even the playing field. I rested my back for a second on the log I owed so much to, drinking in huge gulps of cool air.

I could wait for one of them to do something stupid, or I could go on the offensive. I could hear my instructor's words ringing in my ears, "The last thing you want to be is a sitting duck! You might as well just crawl out and say shoot me!" But what could I do? They were not taking any chances! There was one of them at my 1 o'clock, and one at my 10 o'clock, and they kept firing down the hole barely giving me an inch to even look out. Then I saw it, a big rock about the size of a baseball lying in the mud. I grabbed it and threw it out hard to my left while spinning my gun around to my attacker. He looked distractedly in the direction of where the rock was thrown. I opened fire squeezing the trigger as fast as I could. Now he was catching on, but as he turned to face me, I hit him with a shot in the abdomen. Two down, one to go.

I quickly whirled back to my right to the protection of the log. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a movement but it was too late. My last attacker, not fooled by my rock toss, had circled around and was bearing down on me, his barrel blazing. BAM! I took a full hit in the chest! The paintball exploded in a spray of orange paint! "I'm hit," I called out, and raised my gun in a sign of defeat! Game over!

There are not many things that are more frustrating than having to watch game after game from the sidelines.

Over my Sukkot vacation I went paint-balling with a large group of friends. In the first couple of games I was full of a determined zeal to conquer the other team. I ran in firing wildly, charged the other team without proper backup or cover fire. Most of those games resulted with me out in the first minute. There are not many things that are more frustrating than having to watch game after game from the sidelines. Everyone is in the playing field, running, hiding, firing, crawling, and I am sitting there watching it all go down. Soon, I forced myself to slow down. I started staying back in the beginning when all the people came charging out of the gate. I moved up very slowly, working my way from one protected spot to another, always pausing to reload. And while I can't say I lasted a whole game, I definitely lasted a whole lot longer. I enjoyed the game, stayed alive, and outlasted many more attackers.

We are all coming out of the High Holidays, and we're full of a determined zeal to conquer any negativity inside of us. We are going to live up to our new year commitments to be better parents, spouses, and children. But we need to remember that if we come out charging, shooting wildly from the hip, chances are that we'll get shot down pretty quick. We could end up spending yet another year watching everyone else accomplish their goals while we sit out on the sidelines.

Instead, we would be much better off moving slowly, inching our way from one protected spot to the next. Making a plan. Reviewing our previous successes and failures. Taking on one or two small goals, setting them out for ourselves, and not trying to work on larger issues until we have successfully navigated the smaller ones. We can keep a record of what works and continuously update our strategy.

Although it may seem like this kind of planning just slows us down, let us think back and imagine if every year for the past 15 years we took one small goal, and really accomplished it over the course of the year. We would be true warriors, heroes in the most real and challenging battlefield. 15 down, dozens to go!

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