Tuesday, October 06, 2009

heart of a... hobbit?

back in the early nineties, a woman praying for me had a vision of me as a warrior. she said that i was clothed in armor, and she saw me running toward a huge wall. and she thought to herself, "what is he doing? he'll never be able to scale that wall." but in the vision, that's exactly what happened. i clambered over the wall, full armor and all.

i liked that vision (obviously, since it's nearly 20 years later and i haven't forgotten it). that doesn't always happen when you receive a vision. but this one felt right. i thought of myself as a warrior. i was involved in a great spiritual battle, and it was worth everything it cost. though the challenge was huge, i did not feel the impulse to shrink back; i felt invigorated by it.

those were heady days. a lot of people were coming to Christ in our ministry, and i had the sense that it was just the beginning of something much bigger. i used to tell people that this was the trickle, but God was going to send a flood! i was not interested in building a large, 'successful' ministry. my heart was held captive by the longing for a spiritual awakening in which thousands of people would turn to Jesus en masse. perhaps what began in our little corner of the world would spread across the nation and even beyond.

the burden drove me to God in intercession. i used to lie on my side when i went to bed because i always sleep on my back, and i didn't want to fall asleep. i'd stay up late into the night, pleading with God and praying through isaiah 64 - o that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the earth might quake at your presence! though there were rarely tears, i felt like i was crying all through the night.

that season of my walk with God lasted several years. the ministry swelled to over a hundred, then shrank back to the mid-sixties. we just didn't have enough leaders to care for and nurture all of those people. the revival i yearned for did not appear, at least not in the way i was hoping. i grew weary and discouraged.

there were other things that happened at that time and over the next few years that wore me down. i discovered my marriage was not in very good shape, and that i was responsible for the lion's share of our problems. God's faithfulness and the steadfastness of very good friends helped us through that time, but things still felt uncomfortably tenuous. we moved and found that life in the city was scary; we often felt violated or threatened. i remember a time when our car was being broken into every week, a period that was punctuated by someone kicking in our front door and burglarizing our apartment. later, i came down with a mysterious illness that lasted about half a year and weakened me so much that i couldn't hold my kids or even dress myself. i was exhausted, in constant pain, and with each negative medical test, growing more fearful that perhaps the doctors would never figure out what was wrong with me (they never did, but God healed me anyway).

i could go on and on, but the summary version is: life happened, and it was painful and bedeviling. i began to feel my weakness and my vulnerability. my life seemed very fragile. i continued to pursue God and to be as faithful as i knew how to be, but the old confidence was missing. i still took risks, but there was fear and uncertainty. i didn't feel brave at all. and that feeling hasn't completely gone away, even after all of these years. i do not feel like a warrior.

in fact, i feel more like a hobbit. in tolkien's lord of the rings, hobbits are a small (half the size of a human), relatively powerless race in a world populated by larger, more powerful, more dangerous beings. the hobbits love comfort; when they can, they eat seven meals a day, and drink ale and smoke pipe-weed in copious amounts. they prefer a quiet country life, socializing with friends and making things grow. they are not that interested in the happenings in the wider world, in traveling, or in adventure, preferring the peace and relative safety of the shire.

but in the story, a band of hobbits is sent on a mission that will determine the fate of the whole world. for their journey, they are given the protection of more powerful teammates, which is helpful because they face the constant threat of a terrible evil that studies them, learns their weaknesses, and hunts them. the hobbits bear hardship, face death, make foolish mistakes, and contemplate going home on multiple occasions. they are not the obvious choice for this essential-but-dangerous task -- wouldn't someone bigger, stronger, and braver be a better pick? -- but surprisingly, they turn out to be uniquely qualified. in a world where seemingly everyone and everything is stronger than they are, they have a critical role to play.

the hobbits have to learn to handle a weapon and to fight. they have to learn to face peril and adversity with courage. they have to embrace the sacred task that is entrusted to them, knowing full well that they cannot accomplish it without the help and good will of others. and they have to learn to trust that a greater will is at work for good.

i don't particularly want to be a hobbit. i'd rather be a dread warrior. but i know that there is a method to this apparent madness.


and he has said to me, "my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. therefore i am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when i am weak, then i am strong.
2 corinthians 12:9-10


Bora said...

also, from a literary standpoint, dread warriors are dull. the heroes who best capture our hearts are those who are weak and flawed, and yet courageous. Perhaps because we can see a bit of ourselves in them.

Great post.

marguerite said...

i agree with bora. the fisherfolk in the gospels seemed more like hobbits than warriors to me. plus, hobbits are more loveable. thanks, as always, for sharing so openly about your journey pastor barry.

Bevy said...

Working under the radar of the enemy is ALWAYS a good thing and I think that's what the hobbits did - no ONE expected that they would accomplish such GREAT things ... :) Hang in there!

gr8god said...

bora, marguerite, and bevy: thanks for your insightful and encouraging comments. never get too many of those.

Michelle said...

hi barry, you may not remember me, but i used to attend lighthouse before i moved to hawaii. anyway, i've been following your blog quietly and appreciate your frankness about marriage troubles (and victories!) and ministry failures and joys. it's encouraging to have someone be so open about the realities of being a broken person following jesus and slowly being redeemed. i feel beat up right now too, and wonder what God is going with me and in me. i look forward to see how He will rebuild you because what he breaks he does so He can make something more whole.

Michelle said...

ps i love the lord of the rings reference--can never get enough of those! that's what my puppy's name is samwise...that's right, gamgee.

gr8god said...

hi michelle,

of course i remember you. i'd love to hear more about what's going on, though it's better in e-mail. i'm reachable at g8tgod@yahoo.ca.