In Dependence

I'm consistently amazed at how God will use the seemingly disconnected parts of our lives to help us make connections. For the past two weeks I have been filming a short film in which I play Gideon...and Napoleon, Ulysses S. Grant, and Alexander the Great. The finished product will be a part of Tru, a kids' ministry curriculum created by David C. Cook in partnership with ROCKHARBOR.

The script we've been filming focuses on Gideon's battle against the Midianites, a people who were oppressing the Israelites by aggressively settling in the land in such numbers that the Bible says they "would come like locusts" and devour every living thing. God calls Gideon to raise up an army to defeat the Midianites, and so Gideon starts by amassing an army of 32,000 men. Then God tells Gideon to tell anyone to go home who is afraid and doesn't want to be there.

22,000 men leave!

God further narrows down the "army" to only 300 men based on how they drink water, of all things. Finally, as weapons against the Midianites they get clay pots, torches and trumpets. And then God says, "Have at it."

Hemorrhaging people and unsure of the road that lay ahead, Gideon goes into battle.

I didn't see the connection at first. It was just a silly video. Kid stuff. But things have been a little crazy lately. There have been huge transitions and huge questions. We've added some great people to the team in the last few months, but we've lost (and are losing) some really great people too. Heading into the fall—a typically crazy time full of vision and projects and ground-taking kinds of things—the road ahead looks more treacherous than in recent memory.

Remember when  I mentioned all the characters I get to play? Due to the wonder of special effects, I get to appear (and disappear) as some of the greatest generals of human history. These generals represent the voice of reason, offering strategy and advice, all coalescing in telling Gideon that the plan he's embarked upon simply cannot succeed.

I've been hearing those kinds of voices too.

When God finally helped me make the connection between the project I was working on and my day-to-day life, I looked back at Judges chapters 6 and 7 with new eyes. And I noted a few things.

1. Gideon was called. Clear as day, God chooses Gideon to lead. In verse 14 Gideon is told to "save Israel from the hand of Midian." I, too, know that I am called to the work I am doing. Not only as a creative director at ROCKHARBOR, but as a follower of Jesus I am called to be a reconciler of all things.

2. Gideon didn't feel equal to the task. Gideon's immediate answer is: Who, me? He's from a tiny tribe and he's the least important member of his household. He can't imagine that he'd be the one God meant to have this chat with. I feel that way almost all of the time. So many days I look at the task before me, and the full measure of what I know how to do, and the two things are worlds apart.

3. God promised to be with him, and that didn't change. In verse 16 God answers Gideon's inferiority complex with: I will be with you. And from that point on, nothing goes according to Gideon's plan. He had some ups and downs, doubts, confirmations, and extreme challenges, but God had made the promise of his presence, and that didn't change based on the circumstances or the apparent bleakness of the situation.

4. The plan didn't make any sense. Going into battle with only 300 men against tens of thousands, armed only with clay pots, torches and horns is—anyone would tell you—a terrible plan. But that's the plan God gave Gideon. It was a plan that required faith and dependence, as God's plans always do.

5. They weren't called to defend or maintain. They were called to conquer.  I find it interesting that the call God put on Gideon and his men wasn't to hold the boundaries, maintain the fields, or keep the Midianites at bay. God called, directed and empowered them to utterly defeat and conquer the Midianites.

I too easily forget that I am called, directed and empowered to do the work I do. Despite what may  sometimes appear to be a small team of soldiers, some serious setbacks, and a confusing strategy I am not in charge of making sense of the pieces, only to have faith and be obedient.

I Can't Hear You When I'm Talking

My son is by no means immune to logic…at least no more than the next two-and-a-half-year-old. If he can stop squirming long enough to listen, he’s often able to comprehend the whys and why-nots of a given situation. “No, Finn, I don’t want you to poke the dog in the eye. Yes, I know you think it’s funny, but would you want her to poke you in the eye? No? Then you probably shouldn’t do it.”

He gets it. But again, the key is getting him to sit still long enough to listen to logic. If he can’t or won’t listen, things go downhill fast.

Lately, his greatest joy has been kicking around a soccer ball in the front yard. He runs after it, squealing and giggling. He lines it up just right. He announces, “I kick it.” And then he proceeds to do just that. Then the running and squealing and giggling begin again.

Just the other day I asked him if he wanted to go out front and kick the soccer ball. Before I had even finished asking the question he was at the front door, twisting the doorknob with both little hands, saying, “Go kick. Go kick!” But before we could go outside I needed him to put on his shoes. Logical, right? Well, this is one of those examples where logic fails because he’s just not hearing it. The conversation went something like this:

Finn: Go kick! Me: Yup, we’re going to go play with the ball, but first I need you to get your shoes and… Finn: Go kick! Me: I know, and we will, but… Finn: (with concern) Kick? Me: Mm-hmm, but… Finn: (growing desperate) Please? Me: Yeah, buddy, we will but your shoes… Finn: (the tears are filling his eyes) Please go play? Me: Yeah, just put on…

And then it’s over. He’s beside himself. It’s not really a tantrum. He’s not demanding his way. But suddenly he believes that what he’s been promised will not happen, that the thing he’s pleading for is going ignored. It’s absolute, crushing, and pitiful disappointment.

The logic was sound. The answer was there. He just couldn’t listen.

But this “not listening thing” is not just the territory of two-year olds. We do the same thing, and often we do it with God. There have been many times when I have made my questions known to God, when I have pleaded, when I have demanded justice, or answers, or clarity. And then I have just kept on pleading and demanding and the like. I haven’t stopped to take a breath, much less listen.  Then I conclude that God doesn’t have an answer for me or that he hasn’t been listening when, really, I’m the one who hasn’t been listening.

Habakkuk shows us another way. He does his fair share of questioning and pleading and demanding justice, but then he stops and he listens. He asks his questions, and then he waits; he waits intently and with purpose.

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Habakkuk 2:1

You get this image of Habakkuk standing on the highest point of the city walls, face to the wind, squinting against the sun, eyes scanning the horizon, awaiting a messenger who might come at any moment. He is quiet, but he is expectant and searching. And he gets his answer. And while it may not be the answer he was hoping for, he has had a conversation with God. He has heard the logic of heaven above.