Lines in the Sand



Texans we’re not, but the hubby and I do like history, so we decided to see the Alamo as we made our way across Texas. We went from Beaumont to El Paso, the LONG way, believe me! Our stop at the Alamo was well worth the time. I never understand why the school kids don’t like history. I guess it’s because they haven’t had enough experience yet to know that we can learn from it.

One of the first things we saw/heard was a talk by a guide about the time line of the Alamo battle. I had not realized that everything really went down from February 3rd to March 6th of 1836. Well, I suppose you could call that a culmination of what had come before; the actual siege was from February 23rd to March 6th. That’s really not a long time as battles go. What, then, romanticizes the Alamo so much in history?

I’m sure part of it is that Davey Crockett and Jim Bowie died there. As a child, I remember hearing the song…on Disney?…”Davey, Davey Crockett, king of the wild frontier.” Anyway, those famous names somehow connect one to the battle.

In addition, there was the story that the guide told about William Travis’s “line in the sand.” Until I visited the Alamo, I didn’t realize that Santa Anna had raised a flag of “no quarter,” which meant that even if the soldiers inside the Alamo had surrendered, they would have been executed. These men were taking a stand for freedom, and with the raising of that flag, it became a question not of if they were going to die, but how. Would they surrender, giving up the battle? Or would they fight for the cause in which they believed?

Legend says that William Travis asked everyone who believed in the cause to cross over a line he drew in the sand with his sword and fight with him to the death. Whether Travis actually said those words is disputed by historians because the saying didn’t appear in print until forty years after the battle. The question the Alamo guide asked when he was telling the story to our group was, “Haven’t you all experienced your own line in the sand?”

That really got me to thinking. I have made hard decisions in my life, but the “line in the sand” saying has to do with deciding something that will cost you. There were fewer than two hundred soldiers defending the Alamo. Santa Anna had four thousand troops at his disposal. These men stayed in the Alamo knowing that they were going to die, and they were going to die hard. I can’t, at this point, think of a decision I’ve made that has cost me in this way, although I have made many that I regret.

I guess the big question then, for me, would be to answer someone if they asked whether or not I believed in Jesus Christ as my Savior.  Nobody asks very often, and so far I have been able to answer, but I have never felt that I was in fear of my life for doing so the way some people in foreign countries are. There’s always that little question in the back of my mind: if it were going to cost me my life, would I still confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior?

I like to think so. Corrie Ten Boom told a story once that likened that question to getting on a train as a child. The way I remember her story, she said her father didn’t give her the ticket well before she got on the train, but only as she got on, when she needed it. Maybe the same thing would be true if I were put in a “line in the sand” position. Maybe God would give me courage when I needed it, to say what I needed to say.

I’m sure most of the men at the Alamo hadn’t realized that they would be in a situation where they would be required to give their lives for something they believed in even though, on the frontier (and today too, in some ways), people face life or death situations daily. It is going in, knowing the cost, that I find so impressive. The Bible says in Revelation 3:16 that we are not to be lukewarm believers and, like I said, that verse is easy to gloss over in some respects because, in this country, we don’t put our lives on the line for confessing our faith.

The rest of the Alamo was pretty. There were beautiful gardens. The Alamo started out as a mission, as a matter of fact. Mission San Antonio de Valero. In the early 1800s, the Spanish put a military unit at the former mission, and the soldiers renamed it the Alamo after their hometown, Alamo de Parras, Coahuila. The well is there from the original mission, too.

While the landscaping is beautiful, the most moving experience for the hubby and me was entering the church, which is considered a shrine, and reading the names of the people who died at the Alamo. There were men there from England, Ireland and Scotland, as well as many of the states. They weren’t local people, yet they were willing to die for their cause, the cause of freedom.

Whether William Travis actually drew a line in the sand or not, visiting the Alamo surely got me thinking about courage. About what it might mean to make a decision that would cost you your life. About things that are worth fighting for. I think that in the modern world, we don’t take battles seriously because few of ours would require us to die. Like I said, the only instance I can think of would be to confess my faith in fear of death. Lord willing, should that come to pass, my Heavenly Father will give me the strength to cross that line. Just like the men at the Alamo.









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June 2007
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