I purchased Amanda a sword from the movie Braveheart the Valentines Day during our engagement. I know, most guys do chocolates and flowers but I’m not most guys, and Amanda wasn’t most girls. She was special and each special occasion I felt the urge to do something special for her. Something that would top the last.

This one took the cake.

She was going to school in Pensacola, FL at the time and I was in South Carolina. I found a website where you could order a commemorative edition, full-size Braveheart sword so I had it shipped to her college dorm. As she removed it from its awkward oblong box, with all her girlfriends standing around her, I imagine they raised their eyebrows in dismay.

“A sword? . . . How romantic?" I could picture them remarking sarcastically.

The next thing she pulled from the box, however, was an epic poem called "The Fight" I had written on a papyrus scroll.

The poem went like this:

Valentine’s Day has always been a holiday of cute hearts and cutout shapes of love. Fleeting notes and candy seem to idealize the Valentine experience. We feast on the luscious array of chocolates and flirtatious phrases until we’ve gorged ourselves so obese with infatuation that we miss the truth behind love. And the truth is that we fight. We fight the crowds to be noticed, to be sought after, to be something more than just a number on this populated planet. We fight for significance . . . because it’s in this significance that we can lie awake at night and dream.

It’s in this significance that we can endure the present hardships because the hope of tomorrow is deep within our clutches. It’s in this significance that we can stand alone on a promise even though we look out at a sea of seated, apathetic souls. It’s in this significance that we find our battle, a war that wages where we cannot see.

Only few dare to venture into this other world where warriors lay slain and their corpses strewn over the hillside. To set foot in this world is to sell your soul to one side. It’s a world of significance.

Know this today, for this is a declaration that I make not in haste but in earnest resolve. I will fight. I will fight for this calling. I will fight for the world Unseen. I will fight for your love. I will fight for this relationship. I will fight for your respect. I will pick up my sword even when everyone has laid theirs aside. I will stand in the face of all danger and peril to win your heart. . . . for I could never fight enough to receive a reward as valuable as you. But I will fight... and I ask you one thing. Will you take up this sword and fight alongside me, and through this raging battle stand victorious . . . my Warrior Princess?

Since Amanda’s passing the sword has been a powerful image for me.

A sword is a weapon that when wielded properly can claim territories, defend nations, and protect the defenseless. But if a warrior is going to use a sword in battle, he must ensure it is strong enough to endure the stress it will inevitably undergo. At the same time, it needs to be resilient enough to flex under strain and immediately return true.

Because of that, every sword goes through a careful shaping and refining process.

A blacksmith, or more specifically a swordsmith, whose trade is to shape metal will put the sword in a fire that is heated to upwards of 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. The metal is then taken out of the fire, placed over an anvil and repeatedly struck with a hammer or mallet in order to shape it into a strong, durable weapon.

If you were to personify feelings onto this sword, you could say it’s undergoing a lot of pain. Such intense heat and hammering cannot be comfortable for the sword. But without each of these things, the sword remains a piece of metal that cannot be used. It remains purposeless. It must undergo some sort of “pain" to be forged into a weapon.

This same shaping process occurs in us when we undergo pain and hardship.

Many of us would agree the most trying times in our lives have also been the most developmental.

The old adage, “No Pain, No Gain,” seems trite to insert into seasons of life where senseless tragedies seem to overtake us. But I guess no matter the degree of the pain, the principle is still true.

In fact, I wonder if the degree of intensity of the pain you undergo directly correlates with the degree of impact your shaping process will eventually have on others. So what could have been the thing that devastated you, destroyed you, and deterred you from moving on, is actually the very thing that makes you a dangerous weapon of love to push back darkness in this world.

The key is to not let your pain define you, rather let it refine you into something that is more useful, purposeful, and helpful to others.

I'm finding this to be true for my life, and for Amanda's.

When Amanda and I got married, we carved out a time before the pictures and the ceremony called a “First Look.” We closed all the doors of the sanctuary, I stood down in front of the stage, as the sound guy cued a compilation of our love songs. Our photographer peeped through the small windows on the sanctuary doors attempting to capture the moment. I stood there waiting in breathless expectation to see my bride for the first time.

As the double doors at the back opened up my heart stopped. She slowly stepped through the threshold, the most beautiful smile I've ever seen emanating from her lips. Her luscious white dress and veil settled softly on her bronze skin in a way that made my stomach turn in knots and my heart flutter in rapid syncopation.

My eyes scanned her perfect frame as she waltzed toward me.

I was so distracted by her radiance that I didn’t even notice she was holding something behind her back. She brought her arms around and presented me with a Braveheart sword. “Davey, today I’m joining you in this fight. Until the day I die I’ll fight for you, for us, and for people who are far from God.”

And she did. She fought the good fight.

She lived her life to see people meet Jesus, and in her death even more have come to know Him. And through her death I’m being shaped into someone who loves deeper, hurts stronger, and helps people more readily.

I just wish I had been there when she walked down the aisle for Jesus, her first love, her true groom. I wish I had been a peeping eye looking through the window to see her get her “first look” of her Savior. I wish I could have seen her face when from behind His back he pulled out a crown. I wish I could have seen the tears streaming down her cheeks when He whispered to her, “Well done daughter. You have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. Enter into your reward, my Warrior Princess."

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