Like a lot of guys, I used to collect weapons. Well, “collect” is probably too strong a word, but I’ve had various blades hanging on the wall for a long time. But the time has come to take them down. The sword will stay up–it’s a dress-sword anyway, not a real weapon–but the rest are coming down. It’s not that I wouldn’t defend my family if necessary. (I have four daughters; I am no pacifist.) It’s that my innermost desires are no longer for adventure and conquest, but for stability and peace.
When I was a teenager, I started collecting bayonets and knives. I had carried a pocketknife since I was 10, but I think I bought my first vintage bayonet when I was 14 or 15. Over the next few years, I picked up a few more at antique shops when I could afford them.
Why? Because I was a young man, and I thought knives and bayonets were cool. I still admire the craftsmanship of some of them. (The one pictured here was made in Switzerland and hefts like it.) But most young men just enjoy playing with sharp, pointy objects.
When my wife and I bought our house years ago, I hung the bayonets up on the wall, but then I more or less forgot about them.
In the meantime, I needed to build things. A LOT of things. I had started buying tools and learning how to use them. I had made a bookshelves, a storage box or two, a side table, and more bookshelves. Then came the beds for us and for the kids. I rebuilt the back porch. I built a dining table. I built more bookshelves. I made a lot of wooden spoons.
And every now and then I would glance at those bayonets hanging on the wall. The more I did, the more I thought, “That’s not me anymore.”
Of course I had never used those bayonets. I had taken one or two of the knives on camping trips, but otherwise, they had never been of any use to me. At best, they were slightly odd home decor. At worst, they were fuel for heroic, violent fantasies. Unlike my tools, which I use on a weekly basis, I hadn’t touched the bayonets in years. I was holding onto them for nostalgia’s sake, I suppose, but I wouldn’t have missed them if they had disappeared.
What had happened to me? I grew up.
There is a strong fighting instinct in boys, and it persists into adolescence. I will openly admit that fantasies of fighting and aggression were probably behind my impulse to collect and display weapons. (Thank Heaven I’m a cheapskate, or I might have ended up with dozens of those things.) I see this aggressive impulse in my young son, who loves dressing up in super-hero costumes and racing around the house, “fighting” with any opponent, real or imaginary, that he can find. (He’s learning not to attack his sisters. Or the dog.) I was like that as a kid, too. Most boys are. They love hitting, kicking, stabbing, and shooting stuff. It’s in the blood.
It’s wonderful to be a kid, and I sure did enjoy being a little boy. I made a lot of wooden swords. I enjoyed a lot of my adolescence, too, especially when I found I could buy real weapons. I don’t regret collecting the weapons I did. But once I started taking on responsibility–a job, a spouse, a home, and children–I found my desires changing.
I no longer wanted to fight, but to build.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul remarks that when he became a man, he put away childish things. Paul doesn’t mean he suddenly gained a Y-chromosome. He means that he grew up. Being a man is about responsibility motivated by love. And for me, becoming a man entailed putting away fantasies of violence and replacing them with the slow, steady work of building a home, and taking responsibility for the everyday well-being of those who dwell in it.
So in the spirit of putting away childish things, I took the bayonets down off the wall and packed them away. I found some pine boards and built a little crate to store them in.
It’s not a fancy box–just nailed together in an old-fashioned manner. The lid fits on snugly with only friction, thanks to the thin battens on its underside.
I filled the crate with those old weapons and tied some cord around it. Perhaps one day I’ll know what I should do with them, but for now I’m storing the box somewhere safe and out of the way.
I want to be a man of peace.
I want to build things.
That’s who I am now.