The Martyr

Today is the day that I will die.

And I am okay with that. I’m scared. I can’t lie about that fact, but I’m okay. The fear in my heart swells, but then it fades. It invades my thoughts in the few quiet moments I have to myself, but dulls and winnows in the times that should be the most daunting.

That’s what bothers me. They sell it you as this straight line. They tell you that everything in you will rise and rise and rise until the big moment. That you’ll just keep going up and up and up. But it doesn’t, and you don’t. It rises and falls, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, never so focused or so direct, even when it feels like you’re headed in the right direction.

But I will be a martyr.

That word still sounds strange to me. It seems both too vague and too clear. It captures more than what I am. Martyrs lay down their lives in the heat of battle. Martyrs perish and are consumed in the flame of violent conflict. Martyrs are lost and swept up in the swell of their causes. Many don’t even know that they’re going to die.

But I do. I know that my body will cease to be mine. I know that it will become a weapon. An instrument of justice. It will belong not just to me, but to my brothers, to our families, to everything that we know and believe in. I will be transformed and become something righteous.

I hope I will be righteous. And that’s when the word seems too clear. Martyrs are heroes. They’re the ones who have died for something, for some reason that makes their lives worth more than the sum of its parts. Theirs is not just another death in the static. They are giving themselves fully unto what they believe in and striking the kind of blow that can only be paid for with their lives.

That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to be. I want to be the sword of truth, the fury of heaven, raining down on those who deserve nothing less.

And I am scared. And I have doubts. And I don’t–I can’t think of myself as any kind of hero, as anything other than an instrument of some greater power, using me to achieve some better end. I feel the presence of that higher power. I feel its touch growing closer and closer to me, even when I struggle with my doubt.

I do believe our cause is just. But there are times when I still wonder if this is all worth it. I have seen so many of my brothers throw themselves onto that fire, and the fire just seems to burn brighter. We struggle and we fight and we make a little bit of progress, but each step forward feels like a small drop of water in the desert. The fight just keeps going. No formalities, no honor, no victory in sight. Just an unending conflict that seems fated to go on as long as there’s blood in our veins.

But we can’t stop fighting. Because this is about our children.

All we do is for them. We’re saving them. And we have to. Because they’re what the other side really wants. They fortify themselves, building up bigger and stronger and higher and harder. So that they can just wait us out. They can just sit there in the midst of their bounty and be protected while we die off one by one, and they take our children.

We have to break them. We have to teach them that their walls are not so strong. That we will keep coming. That they can have moments of peace and safety, but never know for how long. We have to. Because the children don’t know any better. Our children grow up inside the world that they have created. And our children will think that it’s right.

No, that’s why I have to do this. So that when everything that those monsters have built comes tumbling down, our children can be free. So they can live the lives that we won’t be able to. So that their lives can belong to them and them alone.

And my life belongs to them too.

I’m still afraid. The time is close, and I’m still afraid. The fear is a heavy stone I carry in the pit of my stomach. It shifts and lurches and weighs me down when I need to be ready. I will be ready. I will do what I have to do.

They talk about what it will be like, about how to handle the fear. They that there’s a moment before it happens. before everything goes off. They say that you feel that freedom. You feel yourself rise and rise and rise until…  something just sets in. You feel your heart race. Everything speeds up. And then you just accept everything. You love everything. You know that you are truth. You are hope. You are a part of the whole, going where you belong. Going to glory. Meeting your fate. At peace.

And I will. I will keep my promises. I will do it for my brothers. I will do it for our children. I will be righteous. I will be great. And I will die.

Because I am Chuck, the yellow bird from Angry Birds, and I’m next up in the slingshot.

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