Updated: Jan 26, 2019
Mark Twain referred to it as “the saddest and most moving piece of rock I have ever seen.”
From the moment it comes into view, there is something gripping and poignant about the dying lion carved in the sandstone side of a former rock quarry. Even before I knew the story, the expression of grief—a mixture of pain and sadness and regret—on the lion’s face resonated with something in my own heart.
The inscription above the lion translates “To the Loyalty and Bravery of the Swiss.”
And of course, I wanted to know how they inspired not just such a moving monument but such an honor on the inscription.
Here’s briefly what I learned--but stay with me because this message is about more. (You can learn more about the Lion Monument at http://lucerne.all-about-switzerland.info/lucerne-lion-monument-pictures-history.html or http://arkivet.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk/articles/dying-lion-the-lucerne-lion )
There was a time in Swiss history where the upper class generated their income streams by enlisting young men as mercenaries for hire to other countries. This is how nearly one thousand of these mercenaries, known as the Swiss Guard, came to be protecting the French monarchy of King Louis the XVI at the time of the French Revolution.
On August 10, 1792, with approximately seven hundred of the soldiers stationed at the royal Tuileries castle, a mob of angry citizens numbering in the thousands overtook the castle. The king, feeling the fight was hopeless, sent a note to the Swiss Guards ordering them to lay down their weapons. Although they did not immediately comply and continued to fight until their own ammunition ran low, it was a death sentence for these men.
Take a look at the picture of the monument again. See the stake through his heart but notice also his paw lying protectively over the shield bearing the Fleur-de-lis of the French royalty.
The history behind this monument fascinates, moves and inspires me. But I couldn’t help but also recognize our battle for God’s Kingdom in it as well. I hope I go down fighting (okay, yes I know the sight of blood makes me faint, but that’s not the point).
I pray I live in such a way that my dying expression—should a giant stone monument be created to capture the moment--will reflect victory, not pain and sadness and regret. After all, this is one war we already know the ending to—and we win.
That’s the dream, anyway.
But what I know is true is that my King will never tell me to take off my armor, lay down my weapons. Not when I’m sitting in church. Not when I’m teaching Vacation Bible School. Not even when I’m in the midst of praise and worship at a Mercy Me concert. Never. Our enemy does not quit.
He may allow me periods of peace where I can get comfortable and over confident--convince myself I’ve won. But that’s the trap he uses to catch me without my armor on.
Flash forward from the massacre of the Swiss Guards only a few decades and you find yourself at the battle of the Alamo. When Santa Anna came to San Antonio in preparation for the siege of this small mission, he rode in under a black flag. It meant no quarter. Even surrender meant certain death.
Satan, too, rides under a black flag—the flag of no quarter.
Sometimes I think we can grow so weary of the battle we are in that we tell ourselves just a little sin won’t hurt. Maybe Satan will lighten up or go find someone else to torment if I give in just a little. We actually tell ourselves that we can manage our sin. Yes…like adopting a tiger cub that will grow up and eat us for dinner.
Ephesians 6:11 says “Put on the full armor of God so that you may take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
I haven’t yet found the verse that tells me to take it off this side of eternity.
What words would you use to describe this monument or the feelings it invokes?