02 February 2009

On Paint and Life (one)

The referee yells "Game On!" and we are off.

Legs pumping, heart pounding, we dash forward as far as we can get before finding cover from the hail of incoming paintballs. There are six of us on our team, against seven on the opposing team.

The field is long and narrow, diminishing the advantage held by the team with more players. No, the name of this game is volume of fire: whichever team throws the most paint will win the day. No flanking maneuvers, no fancy dodge and feint, no strategic movement. The field is bordered on one side by the actual field boundary fence, and on the other side by a two-track trail that drives straight through a makeshift village. There is roughly thirty feet between the side boundaries. No, this game will be a straight-on, force-on-force paint assault.

The two teams have thrown themselves upon each other, and I have found myself in a good position to watch, but not do much else. There is a player from my team in a bunker ahead of me, and I think he is our "front line". Ahead of him, an empty bunker and a wire spool are all that separates us from the other team's front man. I see paint flying back and forth over my head, and watch as is splatters against the white painted press-board bunkers. The paint itself is a dark pinkish red color, perfect for spotting on any color background.

The popping noise increases as the teams move closer to the center and each other. A teammate attempts to leapfrog my bunker, running on his way up to the front, and receives three paintballs for his effort. His calls of "Out!" are echoed by two people on the opposing team, as well as a call from behind me. It is now four on five, and I have yet to fire my paintball marker. It is time to get in the game.

Slowly, I pick myself up to a crouch, and hold my marker at a low ready position. I stretch my neck and shoulders slowly around the edge of my bunker to take a peek. I see nothing, but bring my marker up to fire. I hear no paint being shot at me, and so I am relatively safe for now.

The popping noises continue, and I try to follow the trajectory of my teammate's paintballs to show me where the opposing team members might be. Then I see it: the barrel of a paintball marker, sticking out ever so slightly from the side of a bunker. It moves to fire, and reveals the other player's hands and forearm. I wait, knowing that from where I am he cannot see me.

He fires two rounds, and I hear one of my teammates call "Out!". The other team member still does not see me, and thinking the coast is clear, moves from behind his bunker to advance his position.

I fire once, and my paintball smashes itself against his thigh. He stands and looks in my direction, and I wave.

The game is still very much alive, although both teams have traded blows and lost players. I try to do a mental count, and I think there are two left on my team, me and one other guy. I don't know how many of our opponents are left, so I decide to move. There is no-one shooting in my direction, so I figure it's as good a time as any.

I crouch and run out from my bunker, and fire a few shots. It's amazing to me, even after playing for so long, how many people instinctively duck at the sound of a paintball marker going off. I figure that if I fire a few paintballs, perhaps the sound of my marker might make them duck, and then I can move without fear of being pelted.

I make it to the next bunker up, without being hit. I don't know whether my shots did in fact make them duck, or if they just weren't looking, but no matter. I made it.

I peek around the corner of my new bunker, and am rewarded by paintballs smashing against the bunker from at least two different players. Now they know I'm here. And I know that there are at least two players left on the other team.

The other man on my team must be on the other side of the field, because I see paintballs flying in both directions along the opposite side from where I lay in my bunker. So is that three players? I can't be sure and so I assume that there are.

I shift my weight, in order to look over the top of the bunker rather than around the side again. The opposing player who has engaged my teammate is oblivious to my presence, and I could get him the same way I got his teammate, but I won't. I don't know where the other players are, and don't want to expose myself just yet.

As I am debating whether to eliminate him or not, my teammate hits him, and he walks off the field. My teammate must be moving, because I see and hear a flurry of activity behind a bunker ahead of me, and I know that one of the opposing players is shooting for him.

I again duck behind my bunker and wait. The paintball frenzy subsides, telling me that everyone has found new hiding spots. I peek around my bunker again, and see one head behind the bunker in front of me. I fire two paintballs which miss, but the head retreats.

I still can't count how many people are on the opposing side. I know that we are down to two, but I don't know how many we are facing. At least one, but there might be two. The lull in the action suggests that the guy behind the bunker facing me is alone, but I can't tell for sure.

His head sticks up again, and he fires his marker. But he's not firing it at me. He is firing at my teammate, who answers with a burst of his own. They begin to duel from behind their bunkers, each one firing a burst and then ducking in their turn. There is only one man firing from behind that bunker. It's two on one, and my team has the advantage.

This is it. This may be my only opportunity to move, and I need to take it.

I wait until the opposing player's head goes back down behind his bunker. I know my teammate will begin firing shortly, and as I crouch to leave my bunker, I hear him open up. I should probably call for covering fire, but to do that would give my position away, and I judge it easier to simply move rather than to try and coordinate with him. Besides, he's doing exactly what I would want him to do anyway.

I leave my bunker, running quickly, half-crouched with my paintball marker pointed at the other team's bunker.

If I run directly at the bunker, I will be right up against it and not be able to see or move. Instead I run down the field borderline, the two-track gravel road that runs about ten feet from the edge of the bunker. As I near it, I twist sideways to aim my paintball marker in their general direction, but do not stop running.

There are two players in the bunker!

One of them turns to see me as I run past, but I've got the drop on him. I let loose a pair of paintballs and watch them both impact, one on his shoulder and one on his forearm. They are still splattering as I moved to cover the second player, and another two paintballs break against him, one on his kidney area and one on his shoulder. They both call out at the same time and seem surprised to see me there.

The game has ended. I lower my paintball marker on it's sling and walk over to them. We shake hands and high five as the rest of the players walk back on to the field. Everyone begins talking about who got whom, and who went where. Many stories are shared on the walk back to the rest area, where there are bratwurst and burgers waiting for us.

The way I play paintball is the way I want to live life: aggressive, but not violent. Risky, but not reckless.

This is a theme that the Apostle Paul touches on many times in his many letters. How we are to live with a spirit of strength, not of fear, confidently going out with full knowledge of the power of Jesus.

And if we go back to Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew he says that the Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing.

If something is forcefully advancing, there is some sort of bold, aggressive action going on. You cannot participate in a forceful advance by sitting on the sidelines. You will not advance anywhere if you do not risk anything.

Even in the Old Testament, the stories are filled with people whom God called to act out not depending on their strength, but God's strength.





That's only off the top of my head, rough first draft. You've probably got a mouthful of names I didn't mention.

These people were called to live in the action-filled life of the Spirit of God, depending not on themselves for the outcome, but on God.

Now here's a thought: We have everything we need to do this.

Pastor Rob said that a while back, and it's stuck with me. Right here, right now, we have everything we need. As you are reading this, you have everything you need to live how God wants you to live.

When I play paintball, I have specific equipment that I need to use in order to be effective on the playing field. I also have experience and practice in order to be effective.

But when the whistle blows, or the referee calls to start the game, standing there on the field, I have everything I need to be effective.

In the same way, God has given us everything we need to be effective.

We are standing on the field, right now.

The game has started.

Paintballs are flying both ways.

And we have everything we need to win.



Mason said...

Quite engaging and well written wingnut.
Very much captured the chaos and intensity of paintball. Made me miss playing, it has been far too long.
The parallel you make here is interesting, I agree, we need to be agressive (in a passion and determination sense) and willing to take risks. It is far to easy to just sit on the sidelines expecting other people to take on the work we think ought to be done but are not doing ourselves.

The Wingnut said...

Thank you, Mason!

I wish I could get out more often as well, but it's a bit pricey, so I have to enjoy every time I go!

I'm going to try and explore this idea a bit further, but we'll see how it goes!