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Yawn! My devotion for the day was about Samson. I must have read that story from the book of Judges at least a million times over the years. (OK, maybe a dozen…) And you know, I’ve never really liked Samson. He reminds me too much of a typical school “jock.” All brawn, no brains. The type that would get through Jerusalem SU on his spear throwin’ ability alone and spend the rest of the time under the bleachers makin’ out with the hot chicks! I mean, just look at him! He’s beautiful with that long wavy hair. Isn’t that why he ends up in trouble in the first place? He always puts his body in gear before his brain?

You’ve being a bit judgmental, I chided myself. Remember thine own plank! So I put aside my preconceived notions and turned my attention to the chapters before me.

What high hopes Samson’s parents must have had for him. He was to be a judge of Israel! They had been childless for so long. Imagine the dreams they must have had for their son as he grew into manhood. Imagine the heartbreak they must have suffered as they watched him live out a lifestyle of uncontrolled bouts of lust and anger, compulsiveness and disregard for Jewish tradition. How they must have agonized over his behavior, asking themselves again and again, “Where did we go wrong?” And then to have him end up in a Philistine prison, captured and blinded by the very ones from whom he was to have delivered Israel, his long hair (probably full of pomade and spikes), the sacred sign of his holy office,  cut off… Well, it must have been about more than they could bear.

Samson and DelilahIs there such a thing as “only child syndrome” Samson was suffering from. After all, he’d always been the center of attention, his folk’s fair-haired boy. (Kind of a cheesy cliche since he was likely talk, DARK, and handsome.) But I suspect the problem goes a little deeper than that. In fact, I think Samson’s problems are pretty universal. And maybe that’s the real reason I’ve never quite warmed up to him. He reminds me a whole lot of myself! When I run across someone like that in scripture, I usually shuffle to the other Testament rather quickly.

And yet, that’s a part of what God’s Word is supposed to do. To be like a mirror to us so we can see ourselves more clearly. And sometimes, a lot of times, I don’t like what I see. Do I identify with Samson? Let’s see… Fits of anger? (Groan) Just ask my kids about that one. I’m sure they’re very thankful that I don’t carry the jawbone of an ass around with me! Compulsiveness? (Moan) We can start with “adores food” and work our way clear through the alphabet to “zealous spender” if you want. Need I say more?

SamsonThe truth is, when I read the Bible and am convicted of all the garbage in my life that needs to be taken care of, I end up feeling overwhelmed. Face to face with what a long way I have to “grow” I get discouraged. I feel like God couldn’t possibly use me. And you know what? Sometimes He can’t! Sometimes God actually pulls a Samson on me. He yanks me “out of the game,” so to speak, and I end up “sitting on the bench” wondering how in the world everything got so out of control. Those are hard times in a person’s spiritual life.

Well, whether you’re a church goer or not, you probably know the rest of the story. Samson was chained between pillars in a Philistine temple where the people mocked him and worshiped their false god. After calling on God for the strength to take revenge on them one last time, Samson “pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than when he lived.” (Judges 16:30)

Now I had always assumed Samson was able to do that because God zapped him with the strength right there on the spot. But when I read this passage again this morning, verse 22 jumped off the page at me. It says: “But the hair on his head had begun to grown again after it had been shaved.” I’d missed it before. All one million times! Something wonderful was happening the whole time Samson was sitting in captivity. Though God never restored his eyesight, the price Samson paid for practicing his sexual addiction, He did “refill” and “re-equip” him to carry out his calling from God. What looked like a time of defeat and shame actually turned into a time of healing and victory for Samson.

I’ve had my fair share of “time outs” from God, but I never looked at these bench episodes as a time to heal and be refilled. Perhaps if I would I wouldn’t become so discouraged and disgruntled when I “foul out!”

Do you feel like you’re “on the bench” too? Do you sometimes wonder if things will ever come right again? Then maybe you and I both need a little “pep talk” from the Coach. Let’s join the “holy huddle” and listen as He encourages us: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you…plans to give you a hope and a future…” (Jeremiah 29:11)

How I needed to hear that. You, too?! I guess it’s really true what they say. We’re not “out of the game” after all. We’re just resting up for the “next period.” Any minute now we’ll probably hear God say, “Hey, kid, get those shoes on and get back into the game!” (It’d just be my luck I’d tie my shoe laces together and fall flat on my face! Again!)