You’re strong, successful in your sphere of influence, important to people close to you — perhaps even to some you’ll never meet in person. That didn’t happen by accident.
To accomplish what you have, you’ve chosen carefully the paths you’ve taken, rejecting what wasn’t compatible. To maintain what you’ve achieved, you’ve guarded your perimeter: you’ve set and kept boundaries, the realm of safety that only admits the influences you choose. You continue to protect yourself and those closest to you — the ones you’re responsible for.
But I submit to you that there’s a flaw in your plan, a weak place in the field of well-thought protections with which you’ve surrounded your family, business, and career. You may somehow realize that is the case, or you may be oblivious to the fact that anything is wrong.
Nature has a parallel
Removing brush that was previously cut but left in place at the edge of my yard a few days ago, I found most of the bushes light from drying and easy to handle. When one branch unexpectedly tugged back as I tried to pull it out of the surrounding growth, I looked more closely to determine why. My examination showed an attachment that had formed to the bush well before it had been cut. Something the size of a few strands of human hair had wrapped slowly and quietly around that branch while it was in the process of growing to its present size. A thorny vine, which eventually made my handling of the brush a bit more uncomfortable, had proceeded to make itself at home in an otherwise healthy, strong plant.
I thought how quickly, subtly, and painlessly the direction we have chosen can be affected by something we hardly notice until its effects have forever changed the outcome of our plans, goals, and dreams.
The danger of safety
The great story of Samson (the closest thing I find in the Bible to our modern concept of a super-hero), is that of a man whose incredible strength came from his separation to God. Before Samson was even conceived, an angel of the Lord had directed his parents in how to raise him as dedicated to the service of the Lord – what to do, and what not to do.
Samson was not, in himself, a strong man, but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him when it was needful to do so, and by that strength, he took out thousands of enemy warriors in a day, single-handed, with the jawbone of a donkey for a weapon. He once pulled up entire set of city gates and carried them on his shoulders, and he continued to outsmart his enemies, while taunting them with his strength.
But over time, Samson took for granted this power (there is no recorded time when he prayed, built an altar, or worshiped God as his forefathers had done). A woman he loved, Delilah, was approached by the enemies Samson was to deliver his people from, and offered wealth to sell him out. There is no record that she even argued with the people who asked her to betray him. The woman he loved repeatedly prevailed on Samson to tell her the source of his strength, and though each time he offered her only some ruse in reply, she immediately acted on whatever he had said would work to quell his power, even inviting the enemy to apprehend him once she rendered him powerless.
Somehow, in the midst of this obvious effort to do him in, Samson managed to hold tight to his sense of security, and as Delilah pressed him over and over with her “if you really loved me, you’d…” ploys, he finally broke and “told her all his heart”. He gave away the secret of the one thing that God had given him as the source of his strength, knowing it was something that she could easily take away from him.
Did he remember that everything he’d told her so far, she had tried? What did he do after disclosing to her the real truth of how to disable him? Run? That would have been a sensible plan, but no, he didn’t. Did he at least ask her to promise not to use the information against him? No record of that. What did he do? He put his head in her lap and went to sleep. In the place where he was in the most grave danger he’d ever faced, he behaved as one who felt perfectly safe. If you’re not familiar with how the story turns out, I encourage you to read it for yourself, (Judges 13-16), but suffice it to say that, after that night, he was never able to feel safe again.
The chink in your armor?
Your flaw may very well be simply feeling you are safe in your own strength and ability. You’ve done all you can to help your family be financially stable, functional in society, and happy with one another. Those things are all good. Who gets the credit?
The Apostle Paul, one of the greatest figures in history, leader of the early church, and author of at least half of the New Testament, summed up his abilities this way: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing…” (Romans 7:18). Was that some notable false humility from a super-spiritual leader? If you read the context of that chapter, he acknowledged the struggles (really failing to get it right sometimes) that he faced with doing the right thing, then asked, “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He answered his own question with, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul couldn’t do it, but he knew who could.
In the “Never let ’em see you sweat!” society in which we live, confessing that we are not the ones to bring and to hold our own personal world together seems like the weakness that would get one eaten alive. But that is just what we must do to have real security: trust in the one who made us, and who came to live among us and to redeem us.
Hey, last week even the government recognized that it isn’t totally in control of things that matter, as evidenced by NASA’s advice to Congress on the best course of action, should a large asteroid be found hurtling toward Earth: “Pray”!
Calling out to the One who alone can add the extra layer of security we could never attain, is the only true way to have security. Jesus is the only one who is powerful enough to safely hold you and your personal world. He’s also the one who holds all the world (and that includes all the asteroids) in his hand.