For the last week, I have been reading Stuart Briscoe’s new book, Flowing Streams. Briscoe was the longtime pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Now close to eighty years old, he speaks of growing up in Great Britain and some of the people who were such a positive influence in his life. One of these people was Captain H. S. May, a career soldier in the Royal Artillery. He spent much time in the Briscoe home when Stuart was a child and was a significant person in his life. He showed great interest in Stuart and encouraged him in many ways.
When Briscoe was seventeen, he decided to enter the Royal Marines. Captain May gave him some important advice.
… he told me, ‘You must nail your colours to the mast. Right away!’ As I had never heard the expression before, he explained that in the old days when a ship of the Royal Navy sailed into battle, the colours of the sovereign were hoisted to the top of the mast and remained there throughout the conflict unless they were defeated or surrendered. Then, of course, the colours were replaced either with the white flag of surrender or the colours of the conquering sovereign. But with that in mind, some naval captains would order the colours to be nailed to the mast so that defeat and surrender were shown to be out of the question; they would rather ‘go down with all flags flying.’
‘You must show your fellow marines right away whose you are and whom you serve, Stuart,’ my military hero explained forcefully. Too forcefully for my liking.
‘Did you do that?’ I asked timidly.
‘Yes, I did,’ he replied. ‘The first night in the barrack room I knelt by my bed and prayed.’
‘What happened?’ I ventured.
‘They threw boots at me,’ he replied casually, as if this were an everyday occurrence.
‘What did you do?’ I queried, hardly daring to ask.
Looking at me as if the answer was so obvious he was surprised I should ask, he replied, ‘I cleaned them and returned them, of course!’
(Stuart Briscoe, Flowing Streams, p. 31)