22. Mastering The Gauntlet

 “God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,
 And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face,
 a gauntlet with a gift in it.”
— Elizabeth Barret Browning


In addition to the 1973 movie musical, “Camelot”, with Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero, another Camelot classic, in my opinion, is “First Knight” (1995), with Sean Connery, Richard Gere, and Julia Ormond. Many screenwriters have tried to spin the King Arthur legend in at least a dozen different ways, but I have to cast my vote for Sean Connery for best portrayal of that mythical king.

There aren’t any rusty knights in the more recent movie. But there is one scene in particular, starring Richard Gere as Lancelot, that I feel is absolutely heart stopping. A truly daunting gauntlet has been set up for the purpose of finding out who is the most skilled knight in King Arthur’s realm, and up to that point not one of the brave men who have tried to get through it have been successful.

Enter Lancelot. He is focused on receiving the promised reward – a kiss from the queen-to-be – and since he knows that the quest is no match for his admirable skills, he steps up on the starting platform, unannounced, and gets ready to go for it. He aces the first part of the obstacle course. Then, as the townspeople hold their collective breath, the handsome young man steps back, sizes up the next segment of the test, and … gets through, no problem.

Now comes the final and most difficult – as well as possibly most life threatening – part of the gauntlet. We can’t see how Lancelot can possibly make it through! But then … he performs an amazing move (one which he demonstrated earlier in the movie, but that we forgot about) and suddenly, there he is, standing on the platform at the end of the challenge without a scratch.

Before my children were born, I had no idea that I was standing on the starting platform of a gauntlet that would easily prove to be as death defying as Richard Gere’s Hollywood stunt! It’s a very good thing that God did not allow me to see what lay ahead of me in life, because I quite simply would never have begun the marathon in the first place.

Funny thing: “First Knight” came out in 1995, after both of my kids had graduated from high school. Maybe that’s why I could so readily relate to that gauntlet scene. And the fact that I saw “Camelot” in 1973, the year before my daughter was born, may have been a coincidence, but God has recently made it clear that there are few coincidences in life for those who trust Him – however imperfectly – to guide their wayfaring journeys. I was so caught up in my own medical issues from the mid-1970’s until when Jonathan was around two years old, that I didn’t make the gauntlet connection at that time.

In January 1980 (on Dr. Chapman’s watch), I had an elective hysterectomy – difficult to go through, but I would do it again in a heartbeat for the purpose of resetting my hormonal software. From there I felt stronger, less stressed, and a whole lot more capable of negotiating whatever might come my way. (Fortunately, He did not allow me to see ahead to the 1994 onset of chronic illness!)

That was truly a blessing, because by the time Jon had reached second grade, it was apparent that some stiff challenges lay ahead. But looking back, I can see that Holy Spirit was with me every footprint of the way.

“Ah, Lord God!
Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth
    by your great power and outstretched arm.
There is nothing too hard for you.”

(Jeremiah 32:17)



Do you have any gauntlets in your life right now? Think of a key word to describe each obstacle that you’re facing, such as: a deadline, childcare, the morning commute, or the name of a challenging individual in your life. Arrange your key words in order of difficulty. Then starting with the least daunting, pray about each one and ask the Holy Spirit to infuse your thoughts with ideas on how to resolve them successfully. As my brother frequently said, “How do you eat an elephant? … One bite at a time!”