Two men stood in front of a taxi cab arguing about who had the right to the cab. After the men had argued for a couple of minutes, the one man became calm, opened the door for his opponent, and returned to his wife.
His wife immediately asked him why he had suddenly allowed the other man to take the cab. He explained, “He needed the cab more than we did, dear. He was late for his martial arts class. He’s the teacher.”
If you could be any super hero who would you be? If you could have any super power what would you choose? The ability to fly is a big one. Invisibility is often chosen by sneaky people. How about super intelligence? And of course super strength?
How about super forgiveness? How about having a super-healed heart and amazing soul power? What would that feel like and look like, I wonder.
Samson was the strongest man who ever lived physically but one of the weakest spiritually and morally. True, biblical strength is not determined by how much weight you can lift, but how well one controls his or her actions, attitudes, and appetites. Biblical super power is much closer to having super soul and spirit power than physical strength.
That’s why Proverbs 16:32 says, “The person slow to anger is better than the mighty; and the one who rules the spirit than the one who takes a city.”
Someone has said, “Samson was a man of faith, but he certainly wasn’t a faithful man.” Many, many biblical scholars and pastors and preachers teach Samson lost his power because he valued the sin in his life more than he valued the God of his life. I don’t think that’s it.
I mean I get why they say that. It’s easy to judge someone else’s actions as sinful and no good from the very beginning. We’re not very good with moral ambiguity. It’s much simpler to go with black and white. But it’s not true all that often or more helpful to the people around you or to yourself.
You see I think Samson became a tragedy because he valued the gift in his life more than he valued the giver. He overplayed his hand when it came to what was unique and good about himself, and forgot all about what the gift was for and how he was supposed to use it to serve the Lord.
Samson didn’t love sin. He loved his power that enabled him to do what he wanted and because of that he fell into sin. He became blinded and then he was binded and then he was grinded.
You see, a gift is a double-edge sword. Your gift from God, your gifts, whatever it is that you believe in about yourself that creates something a little special in you, also has the capacity to entrap you. Think about it in a very simple way. Let’s say your gift is to be nice and kind. Is it not possible to be too nice and kind? It is, though of course you’ve got to go a long way to find when you’ve gone too far. But it’s there. It is possible to be too nice and too kind—to be a doormat, as we might say.
We are to a large degree what makes us special but what makes us special is ours on loan from God. So it mustn’t be buried, but it shouldn’t be elevated above all things.
We are the Lord’s, and to the giver goes the gifts he’s shared with us. Put your gifts to the Lord’s service. That’s how they will be a blessing to you and through you.
As you saw in the clip, Rapunzel has amazing hair. Her hair heals. Now that’s a super power that’s way out there. And yet because of it, she’s trapped in a tower by her “mother” who isn’t her mother. She’s the one who abducted her as a baby from the king and queen, an old hag who would have died long before if it weren’t for the healing gift Rapunzel’s hair possesses. So she has locked her in a high tower and completely isolated her from everyone in order to keep her to herself.
Ultimately, Rapunzel has to be freed from the gift completely in order to be free to love and be loved. Of course, that’s going too far. We shouldn’t reject our special quality or qualities. We just have to learn to live them wisely.
But this is not what Samson does at all.
He was born from a prayer by his parents, dedicated as a special offering to God, lived as a Nazarite, which meant he couldn’t cut his hair, couldn’t be around dead people, couldn’t drink wine. And of course he had his unstoppable strength, sort of like a folk hero, Hercules-ish strength.
You could say that Samson had everything going for him, but he wasted most of what God gave him. No other person in the Bible exhibits this like Samson. He had a great beginning. He had tremendous potential. Though born with unbelievable potential, Samson’s life ended early and in sort of a mutual assured destruction implosion with his enemies going down in flames with him.
Samson is your classic preacher’s kid, you might say, on steroids and gone wild. He grew up with those strict boundaries as a child and a boy but
when he became a man, he threw everything away. Have you ever known anyone like that?
He crossed cultural, religious, geographical, sexual and physical/violent boundaries like they weren’t there. They weren’t, at least not for him. They didn’t apply to him. He did what he did because he could. He lived with a sense of entitlement because of his gift and not with a sense of gratitude or service. In the end, he distorted his purpose and diluted his power.
It was like he had an addiction or something—perhaps to women or to his anger. Perhaps the expectations from his parents were just too much for him. And he just couldn’t resist. He was strong on the outside but weak on the inside. Or as we might say today he had the disease of addiction.
Whatever it was, his insides didn’t match his outsides.
We need to get our insides to match our outsides. Be strong on the inside so you can be strong on the outside. We need to get the beginning of our lives to match the end of our lives. We ought to get our potential to match our reality.
John Steinbeck wrote, “For all sad words of mice and men, the saddest are those ‘It might have been’.” The saddest words of all are words of regret, especially, if they describe a life that was wasted because it never fulfilled its God-given mission. To know what we should do, and what we ought to be, and then come to the end of life and not have fulfilled and accomplished those goals is the saddest thing of all.
Bonnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives. She writes in order so others might learn from their wisdom.
“When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.” There are five top regrets.
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “This was the most common regret of all. When people realize their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams….”
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. (priorities) “This came from every male patient I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s
companionship. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.”
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. “Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks…. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. ”
I wish I had let myself be happier. “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.”
Those are five good ones. Which one is yours?
The truth is we all make mistakes, take the wrong path, follow what draws us for the moment but isn’t right for us in the long run. Or just the opposite: choose only to look to the future and fail to live today.
Who doesn’t let doubts and fears and stress and worries determine way too much of their lives? I can’t help but think of how much more grateful I should be than I often, too often, am.
But you know what? We’re not just our failings, and we’re not only our regrets. You’re here now with the power of God to shape your life. Accept your regrets. Learn from them. Grow from them. And live in service to the Lord.
The last part of the Samson story is when he is bound between two pillars of a building in which the Philistine princes and princesses are eating, drinking and enjoying his humiliation. And then he prays for one last moment of his strength in order to have revenge for his lost eyes. Through his prayer, God returns Samson’s great strength to him and he pushes out two pillars, the whole building collapsing down on him and them. Samson dies in pretty much the same way as he lived. I know it sounds like a total disaster.
But there is something here.
The most telling part of Samson’s story is not his great potential and his dismal realizing of it. The most amazing and important part to hold on to is that God listens to him at the end. The Lord doesn’t leave Samson without a
prayer of a chance. God remembers his love for this man and remains faithful even when Samson didn’t.
What we don’t often see is that God doesn’t tire of us like we tire of ourselves. We tend to expect too little from God. We imagine the Lord’s angry with us, and is carrying a grudge, refusing to give us a second chance. That’s not the God of the bible.
Don’t see God through the same eyes we often look at ourselves or others. Don’t give up on the Lord. Find your strength in God’s mercy. Give yourself another chance because the Lord is way ahead of you. Can anybody