There is a story in the Bible about a man whose strength was legendary. His name was Samson and his story is recorded in Judges 13-16. The kinds of things the Bible records about him would be things we would attribute to mythology outside of the Bible…like Hercules, or Beowulf, etc. The story says that God had blessed him with strength and essentially there was nothing he couldn’t physically do. He tore a lion into pieces, killed 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey, picked up the gates of the city and carried them to the top of a hill, and many other things that we read and are amazed by.
The interesting thing about Samson is this: He had God’s blessing on him in a way that no one else in Scripture did, yet his life didn’t indicate that he ever cared about it. He took for granted all that God had gifted him with and seemed to only use it for his own gain. Samson’s concern was never for the good of Israel or its deliverance, but for his own interests. Due to this, his life was riddled with dysfunction. He was an immoral man and in a sense, a bully. The key to his strength was in that he was a Nazirite (a designation for people that had taken a special vow for God) and part of this vow was that he wouldn’t cut his hair. He fell for a woman, Delilah, who betrayed him and cut his hair. This resulted in his losing his strength, or rather the Spirit of the Lord departed from him. After this happened, he was imprisoned by his enemies, and they cut out his eyes and made a mockery of him. Once his hair began to grow back, he asked God once again to bless him with strength, which God did, and He tore down the temple they were all in and killed more of his enemies with his death than he ever did in his life. Remarkably, the thing he said to God was, “Let me be avenged for my eyes!” and then he tore down the pillars of the temple and they all died along with him. His legacy in the end was that his death was more effective than his life….
I’m fascinated by his last moments. Or maybe I should say I’m troubled. Samson, in these moments, never seemed to understand that the reason for his state of enslavement and humiliation was of his own doing. He seemed to feel as though he had been wronged…like he didn’t deserve what had happened to him…totally oblivious to whom and what he had been. He didn’t seem to get that his disobedience to God was what caused his demise. He didn’t show any signs of genuine repentance…no humility…no contrition…just a bitter attitude toward those that had wronged him.
As I think about this story, it highlights the deception of my very own heart…my own victimization. I begin to think about the things that have gone badly in my life and how they are everyone else’s fault…but not mine…because I’m a victim. It’s not my fault.
Every time I have any form of conflict with others or any kind of struggle, the first thing I want to do is lay blame at the feet of those other than myself…because they are the bad ones…they meant me harm…they are the evil ones…and I am just a simple man trying to get by. Maybe this is a situation you cannot relate to…but it is the story of my life and my existence. My knee-jerk reaction to every conflict that comes my way is to shift blame to someone else…and find a way to feel as though I am truly innocent.
This began in the very first part of the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God…Adam blamed Eve, and effectively God for giving him Eve…Eve blamed the snake…and we see the process begin. It’s never our fault. This is such a plague in our culture…so much so that we have turned guilt into a medical and/or psychological condition. Whenever we are wrong about something, we get a diagnosis that helps us explain why we did something wrong…then it’s not really our fault…it’s the condition…we couldn’t help it.
As appealing as it is to try and find some measure of comfort and truth in this possibility, I have to be honest…this is not the case with me…I do the things I do intentionally. In my heart of hearts, I’m interested only in my own benefit, interests, comforts, and pleasures. I find myself working hard to justify my actions and attitudes…looking for loopholes…but in the end…the truth is…I’m just a jerk. I’m a bratty, self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic, megalomaniac who wants only to have my own way and not face any kind of consequences for it. That’s me…and there is no freedom in hiding from it…only more and more bondage…tying me down to an identity that is more confusing than the reality.
The hardest thing to do is face this about ourselves on an ongoing basis…constantly slapping our pride in the face…constantly stinging our ego. It’s hard due to the prideful nature of the human heart…the nature in which it doesn’t want to admit wrong…the nature in which it can’t be wrong…where I can’t be wrong. I’ve found this to be a real principle with small children…getting them to take responsibility when they are wrong…saying they are sorry…genuinely. This is extremely challenging.
Whenever we find ourselves in the midst of a problem…struggling with conflict…the hardest thing is what we must do…and that is to face our responsibility in the situation. If we were jerks, then we need to admit it…especially to ourselves…so the true healing process can begin. This is so difficult…so challenging…so counter-intuitive to whom we are. But until we do this, we will keep up the same cycle of dysfunction we have been in…the one that is destroying our hearts and wrecking our souls.
He wants more for us than that. He wants for us to live an abundant life…and the kind of abundance He wants for us is freedom from these chains…a treasure to which no material possession could ever measure up. He wants us to live. Let us do so. Let us live and let us be honest…humbled…genuine…responsible. We can only begin to see the problems around us change when we stop being the core of the problem that refuses to change…always remembering that He is only correcting us because He loves us and wants much more for us than we could ever imagine.