I don’t watch much tv, but last month while recovering from surgery I found myself engrossed in the series Vikings. I became fascinated by the barbaric yet immensely spiritual lives these men lived. I found myself longing to walk amongst them, fight alongside them, and learn from them. I kept thinking “in some ways, these guys get it more than I do”. My fascination has drawn me into reading and researching more, and their lack of writing and their dependency on oral tradition make it difficult to discern fact from fiction, which in some ways increases the intrigue.
SideNote: For the sake of this article lets postpone the immoral dilemma that the Vikings primary work of raiding invokes in us. We can all overlook a little, raiding, pillaging, murdering, raping a helpless village for personal gain, right 🙂 It’s a method I learned in college called panning for Gold. It takes work but done rightly you can extract precious ideas while discarding the waste. OK here we go.
1. To Dance with the Gods
Vikings believed their Gods were actively at work and it was their job to respond, discern and interact with them. Nothing happened by chance. If a battle went a certain way, it was because that Gods had willed it. They were awake to this truth and spent significant effort finding out the will of the Gods. They often would seek God’s agenda by communicating with him through a town seer or prophet. They believed the seer could actually hear from God and share his this insight with them. They would then actively try to leverage their life in harmony with the prophecy knowing the will of the God’s would prevail. At times the Gods would take on flesh and walk amongst them. The Viking were attentive to make the most of these encounters.
2. The paradox of sovereignty and responsibility
They believed that the day of their death was fated and nothing they could do would change that. This had a huge impact in battle. They could fight fearlessly because they believed that if it was not their time to die there was nothing they could do to cause it. If it was their time, there was nothing they could do to stop it.
They also believed their actions had a direct impact on their future. If they died valiantly in battle, their future would be secured by Odin in Valhalla, yet if they lived like a coward, they would be excluded from eternal feasting with Odin.
3. Names Matter
They named their kids intentionally, and the meaning of their names came to pass. The Vikings chose names very carefully. Ragnar renames his son from Bjorn to Bjorn Ironside claiming that no one will be able to kill his son. Later, when he grows up, and the prophecy is fulfilled making him an unconquerable warrior. In a fit of rage; Queen Aslaug speaks a curse over her future son, which later comes to pass. Names matter. They are a proclamation of the future.
This one was more of a reminder as we have embraced this belief and seen it played out in our children. We named our first son Marcos, which means war. And war has been brought to our household since he was born. I believe that God is raising him up as a mighty warrior to battle for the kingdom in ways I can’t even imagine. I named my second son laughter, and he has brought laughter, fun, and joy to our home since his birth. We named our first daughter Selah, which means to pause and reflect, we later found out that it also means crescendo, which is a more accurate description of her lively personality. We also (unintentionally) spoke a line over her from a movie we had watched. 100s of times we have said “Sweet but strong-willed Selah.” She is both sweet and strong-willed to the nth degree. Finally, we have named our second daughter “Mercy” because there is much suffering in this world and we are desperate for God’s mercy every day.
Ultimately, we believe the Kingdom of God needs men of war and laughter, along with sweet and determined women full of mercy. And through their names, we are speaking these blessings and futures over our children thousands of times per year.
4. Don’t Go It Alone
The Vikings lived together, raided together, worked together, raised the next generation together and pursued their faith together. They were interdependent on one another for survival. This is another significant piece that is missing from our society today. We live an individualistic society, and that causes us to live alone, work alone, raise our kids alone and pursue God alone. I want to embrace those around me and. I invite you to journey with me and to depend on one another. This one is particularly difficulf for me. I have always had a tendency to be the lone wolf. I have paid some sharp penalties for going it alone. I want to change that. God lead me into a deeper interdependency on those you have placed in my life.
There are many other things I have gleaned from this series that I hope to use one day, like how to sail without a compass, how to groom a beastly beard
I secretly hope that I have Viking ancestry. I am still freaking out after Michelle told me that Scandinavia as modern day Norway/Sweden which is where my ancestry “Tiderman” is from. You know what, I’m just going to claim it. I’m a Viking!
While I don’t condone everything that happens in the show, I highly recommend you watch it. I was very impressed with seasons 1-2 and would have been content if they ended it there. But in typical Hollywood fashion in season 3-4 you will see a significant decrease in quality with a substantial increase in mindless sex, betrayal, and killing. I recommend preparing for more scene skipping as the series progresses. Watch it and discuss it with some brothers in your life. Wrestle and discuss the parallels and differences between their way of life and that which is set before us now.
Take the journey with me. Let us learn from Ragnar, Floki, and Bjorn Ironside. Let us believe God is alive and actively at work in our lives. May we courageously lead, love, take risks and fearlessly look death in the eye knowing that the number of our days are numbered and our fate is held in the hand of our God.