Thursday, 12 July 2012

Go in the strength you have

Morning, God. For about another half hour, anyway, then it'll be lunchtime. Another opportunity for me to put off the things that need doing and go and do something else instead. I am the Queen of Procrastination. 

I've been away for a few days and couldn't get Internet access where I was. How appalling is this? I  have been separated from my email. Facebook was closed to me. And all the myriad of daily devotionals that stoke me up for each day were forming an orderly queue and chatting among themselves outside my inbox until such a time as they were allowed in. 

I am now home, I am plugged in, the Wifi is doing its thing, and the processor is whirring. I have a million new messages. Pingpingping.

I now realise that I am, perhaps, on too many mailing lists.  Still. 

I settled down in front of my little computer and began to browse through the mail. Interesting stuff. Some of it challenging, some inspiring, some a bit too high-brow for the way I'm feeling. I bookmarked a few. One stood out. 


I like Gideon. Gideon felt small and inadequate. I know that feeling.

Judges 6: 12.  You sent an angel to chat with Gideon and the first thing the angel said was, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'

I wonder if Gideon looked behind him at that point. He wasn't feeling very mighty, or warrior-like. He was hiding, actually.  He was feeling defeated and small and insignificant. What's more, he didn't feel particularly that you were with him.

'If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders...?'

Gideon was quietly doing his thing, minding his own business, and you came and told him to stop doing his thing, and go do a great thing.

'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?'
Judges 6: 14

What about that? The clue is in 'Am I not sending you?' I think. If you, Mighty God, were telling Gideon that he was up to the job of fighting the Midianites, then he probably was. Of course, this is easy for me to say. I'm not the one hiding from these same people and wondering what on earth is going on. Gideon argued with you, didn't he?

"'But Lord,' Gideon asked, 'How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'"

You've got the wrong guy. No, you were patient and reassuring.

'Pull yourself together, Gideon. How many times do I have to tell you? I am God. If I tell you you're going to be Superman, then you're going to be Superman. Time to man up.'

Or not quite like that. You told him that you would be with him. Time and time again Gideon asked for proof that it was you, proof that you definitely were talking to him, proof that he'd heard you correctly. Did you get impatient? No, you humoured him. Did you get a bit annoyed that he kept asking you for a sign? Nope. You gave him signs.

You are endlessly patient. But that isn't the whole story. Of course, there's the little story about Gideon's defeat of the Midianites, the ongoing chronicles of the people of God and the glory of you shining through your servant, there's that. But the thing that struck me today is how you stoop down to choose ordinary people to do the extraordinary. When those ordinary people have hangups ('But I'm weak! How can I do this thing for you?' or insecurities ('I am the least in my family!') you reassure and equip.

You say, I will be with you. I'm going to hold your hand.
Go in the strength you have.

You didn't make Gideon feel strong. You didn't double the size of his muscles, or give him a couple of tanks and a huge army - you simply said, 'Go in the strength you have. Am I not sending you?'

If you're sending us, we'll be alright. You wanted Gideon to trust you to equip him when he needed equipping. To step out, just as he was, knowing that the Lord was fighting with him. You weren't talking to the person behind him who had bigger biceps and a bit more charisma.  I don't think it's any different today.

Don't you say to me, 'I am with you.'? Don't you say to me, 'Go in the strength you have?' and also, 'My power is made perfect in weakness.' (2 Cor 12:9) Don't you ask me to step out in faith with the knowledge that you are beside me?

Not the woman on the other side of church who is more beautiful than I am, slimmer and more confident. You've got something else up her sleeve for her that's none of my business. You have a plan for me that I'm just perfect for. You know what you're doing when you're asking.

Sigh. So hard.

So nothing changes. I compare myself with others just as Gideon did and I find myself wanting, just as he did. I wonder why I should try anything when a little voice tells me that it's been done better by someone else already. I wonder why I should even entertain the possibility that you have a calling for me, little me, pathetic little me... just as Gideon did.

I'm not saying that you want me to come down a mountain and defeat an army. I'm not saying that I am a spiritual giant of the stature of the Old Testament heroes. But what I heard as I read the story of Gideon this morning is that the Biblical Big Guns had cold feet too. Even they doubted themselves and felt small and insignificant sometimes. All human life is in the Bible indeed.

I so often feel ill-equipped for the task of living as you would have me live just on a day to day basis. If you have something else for me, something for me to do, or say, or write, or tell people about, then I'm quite sure I'll worry about that too. Why me? How, me? And yet you've answered it before.

'Am I not sending you?'

This is what I want. If the Lord God Almighty is asking, then I'm dancing. If he's sending, then I'm going. Because you also say, 'I'll be with you.'

There's no safer place than where you are. Even on a battlefield. And my life sometimes feels like a battlefield. But look what Gideon did. He defeated the Midianites, just as you said he would, even if he was from the weakest tribe, and the least in his family.  You chose him.

So when I feel defeated by circumstances and inadequate and afraid, I should remember that your power is perfect in weakness. If weakness is required, I can provide it!  In buckets. When I am weak, you are strong. If you are by my side, and I am hearing your voice, then I have sufficient strength for the next step. You will provide what I need. I need faith, Lord. Always more faith.

I need only hear your voice which told Gideon, 'Go in the strength you have. Am I not sending you?

Amen, Father. I find it so hard to believe, sometimes.

Bury this deep in my soul, will you?

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