“The center of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.”
G. K. Chesterton
I can’t know exactly what Chesterton intended when he wrote this, but I know what it means to me. Right now I am fighting the flu, and I feel besieged. I don’t always have such clarity on that point as I do when I’m sick. When I’m sick, I feel the citadel of my spirit fending off waves of attack. I am strangely reassured by this clarity. For a moment in time, I can see the purpose of the attack and the wonder of the citadel that repels it.
The Purpose of a Citadel
We aren’t meant to walk through this life befuddled, yet that is more common every day. God is not confused or capricious, and He didn’t create us to be either. The dream at the heart of every man’s existence is the dream of God. It is the dream of something higher and greater than just us. This dream can be captured, but it is only permanently overrun (in this life) by the Creator of the dream Himself.
A citadel is intended to withstand a siege. That’s its purpose! The best fortress does not exist in theory; it has weathered its share of storms. It is tended and mended and buttressed. I can see the attacks as they come in this moment, and I can see the places that need shoring up in my walls. Every attack – sickness, failure, hardship of any kind – serves not just any purpose, but THE purpose. The citadel is made for war.
A Citadel Overrun
The world looks at the forces besieging the dream and believes the keep will always fall. The citadel opens its gates to the enemy and the world blames its Builder when it is overrun. I know I did. But if it is never tested, then it serves no real purpose.
We don’t often see that the attacks are intended to strengthen the fortifications. A citadel that is never attacked has no need for vigilance and no wisdom born of experience to call on when the war intensifies.
We are not dead leaves scattered by random winds. Our suffering is not proof of God’s indifference; it’s proof of His engagement. And the more I surrender to the Purpose that my life serves, the more I am rewarded by seeing it all around me. We serve the Almighty God who always has a Purpose. And we are never so lost as when we cannot connect with it in any meaningful way. That estrangement is a citadel overrun.