Being a "lefty" I've come to realize that this world was made for right-handed people. Notebook binding, bowling balls, instruments, even batting cages are primarily designed with the right-hander in mind. Never had I been so aware of the disadvantages of being a "leftie" as when I was in the USMC and threw my first grenade. Yes... GRENADE. Forgive me if I didn't say that these too were designed for right-handed people! You see the standard issue fragment grenade has three built in safety mechanisms that must be sequentially released in order for the grenade to explode. First comes the thumb clip, then the pin (that bit you see people pulling with their teeth! - yeah... no one really does that), and finally the lever. It's designed so that the right-handed thrower can easily access each mechanism while holding the grenade upright. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
But what happens when you're a lefty? Well, you need to hold the grenade UPSIDE DOWN and face it in the opposite direction. Afterwards you can clumsily and awkwardly access the thumb clip and pin before throwing. The moment I stepped into the grenade pit I saw a look of terror on the DI's face. Not knowing I was left-handed he saw me entering the pit on the wrong side with a grenade held upside down and facing the wrong direction! In his mind I was about to kill both of us. It wasn't until I shouted - over the sound of other exploding grenades - "I'm LEFT handed!!!!!", that he calmed a bit. I threw the grenade, ducked, it went BOOM. If I hadn't learned the value of a healthy dose of fear before, I did then.
Gideon, picking up where we left off.
When we last left Gideon he was in the midst of an unenviable plight when he received a visitation from an angel who stated that Gideon was both a mighty warrior and that God was with him. Understandably, Gideon remained guarded as his current situation in no way aligned to what had just been spoken about him. But God, in his persistence, found a way to obtain Gideon's trust to the point where he issued him the first of a series of tasks with the intent of bringing the nation back to God:
That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.
Examples and exhortations to be courageous in light of fearful situations are plentiful in Scripture. We have Joshua who was literally commanded by God to be courageous as he led people into a hostile Canaan (Joshua 1:9). We have Jesus who told his disciples to be of good cheer, fully knowing they'd face severe persecutions and gruesome deaths (John 16:33). Even Paul reminds us that God hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but one of power and self-control (1 Timothy 1:7). Be that as it may, no amount of faith or courage is an excuse for outright foolishness - at least not the kind that isn't Biblically informed. And its with this in mind that we ought to lend Gideon a bit of grace. For while he was still rightfully fearful of a very real danger, Gideon remained obedient to God. It would have been far worse for him to do nothing. There exists a place in our mind and hearts for a healthy measure of fear (or concern) and faith (or conviction) that God is with us; and Gideon reminds us of this. I call this place being "Cautiously Courageous". A few weeks ago I created this grid for my students to frame this idea:
Notice that being "Cautiously Courageous" takes into account our genuine concerns but it does so from the vantage of faith where we still move forward in the direction God is leading us in. For our purposes there are three thoughts I'd like to share on this idea.
Be real about your fears.
2 Corinthians 15, calls our Heavenly Father the "God of all Comfort". This assumes that there will be times when we experience fear and discomfort. There is a distinct power in being honest about what gives us pause and leads us into apprehension. We cannot address what we are unwilling to name. Admitting our fears or concerns isn't an indicator of weak faith it's an indicator that we are human. God lovingly invites us to lay ourselves bare before him that we might get to the root of our disheartenment. Only when we open this door can the real work begin. All to often we find ourselves and others dismissive about the true burdens they carry only to realize quite too late that a better course of action would have been admission so that they could be addressed.
Remind yourself of the true source your strength.
While I certainly do not want underplay the challenges you and I face, it can be healthy to be reminded that we probably don't have it as bad as David did in 1 Samuel 30. Upon returning home from a military campaign he and his band of warriors found their village razed and their wives and children carried off. Understandably, his violence prone comrades made motions toward dissent and mutiny. Faced with a potential "stoning" David did the very thing we ought to do: he strengthened himself in the Lord. Not escapism, not addiction, not blame, not aversion, and certainly not pacifism through the various means of distraction we so offend turn to. David went directly into the throne room of God, as it were, to receive the grace, confidence, and strength he so desperately needed (Hebrews 4:16).
Continually seek God's direction.
If there's one thing we can say about Gideon it's he makes great effort to ensure that God in fact is indeed in this venture with him. In Judges 6:36 he places his first "test" before God, requesting that the morning dew fall on a wool fleece while the ground remains dry. God responds in kind and Gideon receives his first confirmation. However, Gideon isn't quite convinced and makes a second request that upon the next morning the fleece would remain dry while the ground would become wet - and predictably God answers this request as well. The faith of Gideon tends to get raked over the coals for asking God for a sign a second time; after all aren't we told to no "put the Lord to the test" (Deuteronomy 6:16)? I tend to see things differently. Remember, the reason Gideon's people were in this position in the first place was that they had failed to seek the Lord; and had rather turned to self-trust and idolatry. Trusting God, seeking his direction, was something Gideon was not all-too-familiar with. Moreover, this wasn't an arrogant test as in "God if you want me to support the church's building project then give me a promotion at work" - type of thing. It was an appeal stemming from humility - tinged with fear of his current circumstance, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request." Seeking the direction of God is not a one time affair, it is a continual state of being.
Perhaps God is calling you to be Cautiously Courageous. Your first missions trip, a business venture, an upcoming marriage, a new career path. The life of faith has never been promised to be one of perpetual comfort and serenity; but one of highs and lows - peaks and valleys - that enable us to view that through all situations and in all landscapes God himself has been with us. Are there things you fear? Be honest about them, clearly detail them to the ear of the loving God who can sympathize more than any person on this earth. Are you in need of strength? Be reminded of David who in the midst of a dark hour strengthened himself in the Omnipotent One and rose to stand again. Does your future lack clarity? Take comfort that the God of all Wisdom gives liberally to those who seek in faith. Ask God spoke to Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
Comments, questions, thoughts? The comment section below is for you. As always please pass this along if you found it helpful and meaningful.
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