What is illness to the body of a knight errant?

Originally published January 17th, 2018

One of the great scenes in Broadway history (IMHO) is the climactic scene in Man Of La Mancha, where Don Quixote was on his death bed, Aldonza and Sancho by his side, and as his memory of his (illusory) knighthood returned, he began to stand…

Don Quixote: “On thy knees to me?”
Aldonza“My lord, you’re not well…”
Don Quixote“Not well?!? What is illness to the body of a knight errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again! And woe to the wicked! Sancho!
Sancho“Here, your grace!”
Don Quixote“My armor! My sword!”….

…and in thirty seconds, he’s dead…but dead as a knight errant, not as a demented old man. And that makes all the difference.

I’ve been fighting a chest cold bordering on pneumonia over the last several days; perhaps that’s why I was weak enough to be such a target for the demons pushing me to jump off the bridge last week, I don’t know. Knowing I was with my children this past weekend and this week, without my fiancee’s help (she was in LA with her grandson), I took it slow and easy all weekend in the hope of saving up energy wherever I could. I had to drive children hither and thither, soccer-mom style, but otherwise I kept things quiet.

Probably too quiet – I didn’t write on this blog, nor did I spend any other time writing new material, although I studied quite a bit of Scripture. And I used my illness as the excuse to flag on my duties to the Lord.

Then, as I sat down to write on a different topic altogether just now, the headline you see above emerged unbidden from my fingertips.

(“This is God speaking. Can I help you?”)

Man Of La Mancha was my second-favorite musical when I was growing up. (West Side Story was and still is first; Camelot was third.) I had a poster of “The Impossible Dream” on my bedroom door as inspiration to keep fighting for what I wanted to achieve. But it’s as sterling an example of striving for what God wants us to accomplish for Him as well.

“And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest.”

It’s not achieving the goal that matters in the end; it’s the quest itself that makes it worthy in God’s Eyes. Richard Ellis hit this on the head in that life-saving sermon I described last Friday. He concluded with a few sentences that could have simply been aimed at me: You say, But Richard, you don’t know what I’m dealing with. It can’t be beaten. I’m going to die from it, and God won’t save me from it. I say, it’s not that you’re going to die that is the problem; it’s how you face death, how you face that challenge that matters. Will you stand up to your demon, or will you let it defeat you?

If I’m “true to my glorious quest”, what matter wounds? What matters pain? What does it matter that I’m not going to “win” in the end? It’s the battle that matters to God. It’s the character that is built in the battle that matters to the Lord. 

Don Quixote de la Mancha was a delusional old man. He thought that he was a knight errant of the Spanish Realm, a relic of an era that had long passed. The region, of course, knew him as a delusional old man, and his niece and her husband were literally embarrassed by his behavior (so much so that they take action to shock him back to reality in the second act). But some people around him found hope from Don Quixote’s nobility. There were two in particular – Sancho, his “faithful servant” (who simply liked him and enjoyed the “misadventures”), and Aldonza, the barmaid-slash-prostitute whom Quixote has mistaken for “my lady Dulcinea” (who comes to adore the reality he sees for her, preferring it to the seedy reality she’s lived)To the two of them, Don Quixote has brought joy and his vision to their lives. Did he “win”? Hard to argue that he did. But the battle was what mattered, and his heart undoubtedly lies peaceful and calm.

I’m going to die from this disease eventually, unless Christ returns before that (as I think, hope, and pray He will). But to cut off the fight prematurely is to miss the point of the fight. I must keep fighting the TAM, fighting the disease, fighting for God’s Message to be spread while there’s still time.

I’ll have eternity to rest and recover. But I only have these few months to serve my purpose for the Lord here on earth before He Returns. And He mandates that I use them for Him, not selfishly ditch the fight to avoid the pain. My pain is temporary, but your Hell would be permanent if I don’t share the Gospel with the people who need it.

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