I’ve never been what you would call traditionally tough.
Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.” – Judges 15:16 (NIV)
When your first summer camp experience is computer camp, there’s a strong indication that bodybuilding and motorcycle gangs are not in the picture. I’ve been on the wrong end of bloody lips and a woeful high school wrestling career, but never the thrower on the right end of a throwdown.
On the mental side, I have also never been gifted with willpower. The path I’ve walked is littered with evidence of that, mostly in the form of salty treats and inappropriate video content. Instant gratification, especially in the era of the-answers-to-all-questions-are-on-Wikipedia, had always been my default.
But at some point, being a husband and a dad doesn’t fit with being a speed bump.
Trying to transform yourself from Steve Urkel to Samson, though, is hard. But … isn’t that’s the point.
Standard disclaimer: By no means have I beaten all of my temptations into a bloody pulp. But I share this as a reminder that I have been given the gift of the strength to fight from God, I have Scripture to lead me, recovery programs to teach me and a men’s community group to hold me accountable.
Bonus disclaimer!: Some of your may be familiar with LifeChurch uberpastor Craig Groeschel’s new book Fight (link on our resource page), which also uses Samson’s story as an approach for men to identify and overcome their issues with lust, entitlement and pride. I will reviewing Craig’s book soon. I have a ton of love for LifeChurch and, since I’ve been stewing about Whole Donkey for month and months, the serendipity of this as one of our Foundations and as the subject of Craig’s new book are just an example to me that God is speaking to men in a pretty loud voice.
Instead of focusing on Samson’s dalliances and Delilah’s barbering skills, let’s zoom in on the donkey story in all of this. The story is about more than just a Samson’s Hulk-out moment. To me, it is about where he was the the moment he decided to pick up that jawbone.
In the verses before Samson sets about slaughtering, his wife and family have been killed. He retreats to live in a cave – a cleft in the rock as the Bible says – and soak up his own pain and misery. He fights back and again hides in the cave, only to be delivered to the Philistines by the men of Judah. These are the guys he is supposed to be fighting for and they tie him up and hand him over.
Samson has lost everything. He is at that moment many of us have been in (and that he will experience again later in his story). Hopeless. Regretful. In mourning. Some of us look back at broken relationships, lost time and passion and wonder what the point has been. We’ve squandered our money or our connection with our wives. We’ve been beaten down by the enemy and been handed over, in many cases, by our own decisions.
The men of Judah are our true selves. Ideally, we fight for them and they don’t betray us, but in Samson’s case, he gives them permission and they turn him over
And finally he fights.
He picks up the jawbone of the donkey, a strange but handy weapon, and finds the strength from God to fight. At that moment, Samson is The Bible’s MacGyver. He doesn’t search for the sharpest sword or a guaranteed solution, instead he finds what’s laying on the floor of the desert and he picks it up to fight.
This is not a perfect answer, but an effective one. Samson has God on his side, so he makes work what he needs to work.
Many of us get stuck finding a weapon, so we don’t win.
Many of us get stuck taking the first swing, so we don’t win.
Many of us don’t ask the Spirit of God to be part of the fight, so we don’t win.
Those failures are the least of the problem though. Those are decisions we have to make quickly. Wading through the bodies, blood and carnage of the fight itself is the hard, exhausting part. Can you imagine Samson, up to his elbows in Philistine gristle, waiting for this battle to be over?
And even at the end, the jawbone tinted red from the slaughter, it wasn’t over. Samson had many more battles to wage until his tale concludes, when God gives him strength for his final one.
Finding the formula to win a fight is one of the most difficult tasks we face as men, because once you lift up your weapon and call upon God, you really don’t know when it is going to be finished. For some of us, it’s a daily battle that can last a lifetime.
We aren’t the strongest men in the world, but the Good News is, we don’t have to be in order to win. We just have to have the same spirit of God behind us as Samson did, guiding the imperfect weapons of our selves.