Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Reading ahead in Judges this morning, I found myself in the story of Deborah, a judge in Israel, told in chapter 4. There are six very important people being used by God to serve His purpose for bringing peace to Israel after they once again “cried out to the Lord for help.” (vs 3)
These six were Jabin, a king of Canaan; Deborah, a Prophetess and Judge, to whom God spoke about Barak, a man chosen to lead the raid on Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite armies; Heber, a traitor Kenite who told Sisera of God’ plans; And Jael, Heber’s wife. It is a short story, but it is jam packed with action.
Deborah sent for Barak (bear-eck) and told him exactly what God told her about His plans: I will lure Sisera… and give him into your hands. But Barak was timid – quite contrary to his name “thunder bolt” which suggests he would be the Lord’s “flashing sword” – and he said to Deborah, “If you go with me I will go; but if you don’t go with me I will not go.” Huh? She just told Him that God would take care of Sisera for him, but he thinks he needs Deborah with him to have courage to do what God asks?
The notes in my Bible say that Barak’s timidity was “due to lack of trust in the Lord.” So, God took note and used Barak and his army to chase and destroy the army of Sisera, but God let Sisera get away, so that Barak would have no honor in Sisera’s death. Instead, Jael, the wife of the traitor Heber, was used to bring about the death of Sisera by tent peg. Sisera had walked right into God’s trap and Jael, a woman, was given the glory for killing him. Even Deborah took advantage of this news to rub it in to Barak and others like him, by singing a song about the whole thing right out in the public. (Chapter 5) It was a lesson to be learned about trusting God whole heartedly in all that we do.
Many people who know me would protest loudly if someone were to say that I am timid. But I will say it. I do have a timid bone or two in my body. Low self esteem wins out every now and then. I used to be a true “wallflower,” making wall paper of myself at dances so that no one would recognize that I wasn’t being asked to dance, but I would still be able to enjoy watching others dance and hearing the music. I kept going, but I also kept being left out in the cold. I, also, actually have to “suck it up” when I walk into a room of people already engaged with each other because I assume they do not need to be bothered with me. Thus, I show up early, and engage with them first. Three years ago was the first time I walked into retreat and struck up a conversation with a stranger, let alone a friend, who was already obviously comfortable in her surroundings. It was a blast. It was a break through, guided by a friend.
As I write this I am concerned about a friend who is serious to be in full time ministry, but is an “introvert” who has fallen into a practice of being timid. Being timid, and acting timid, sometimes need to be separated in what one does. These questions may help us decide when we absolutely should not be timid:
What do I do with my eyes when I walk through crowds of people, as in the church hallways before and after church? Do I look people in the eye and smile or do I avert my eyes and hope no one notices me? Do I greet only the people I already know, if I greet at all? Or do I search out unfamiliar faces and make a point to smile and speak? Do I seek the eyes of others in classes or do I hide myself behind a downward look? Do I ever smile at someone just because they are there and I am joyful that God loves me; or do I fill my ears with music or my eyes with my cell phone so that I do not need to meet the eyes of others? Sometimes it is just not right to use timidity as an excuse for ignoring people. Sometimes we need to trust in God for courage to lift another’s spirits for a moment by smiling and saying “Hello,” even if they do not acknowledge us at all.
Yesterday I had my eyes checked and as I was leaving the building, a woman caught my eye, we smiled, and she said “We know each other, don’t we?” It turned out we did not, but I said, “But I would love to know you.” And a conversation started. It wasn’t a long one, but we were both blessed in finding comfort in the Lord together. We just never know what God will do when we “buck up” and step out. Or, maybe we do know, and that frightens us as well.
Let us not be Baraks: Let us step up and follow God wherever He leads us even if it is just across the room to greet another person who also may be timid and feeling out of place.
But, also, let us be prepared to follow God across the street, across the country or around the world, smiling and greeting people wherever we go. Let us at least be lights, if not “thunderbolts.”
May we be lights for God even on the darkest days of winter and the darkest situations in which we may find ourselves. If we are filled with the Joy of Jesus Christ, it will spill over on others. May we seek Joy and be Light. Amen.