Everyone knows the bible stories told at Sunday schools. David and Goliath, Job, Adam and Eve etcetera etcetera. Sometime we think of it was redundant after a while, some even a bit cliché and it doesn’t help that you have to speak Bible-ese to understand half of the points from time to time. Let’s face it, not many people are going to whip out a biblical reference when faced with a problem. But sometimes we learn a thing or two from the stories we roll our eyes at. David was small, Goliath was big, and size doesn’t matter. Job’s problems were big, Job’s God was bigger. Eve chose to sin, Adam chose the same, and chaos was the result. Parsimonious understanding of the principles behind these stories can go farther than one might think.
One of the overlooked stories that makes the distance is the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. The short of it is that Gideon was the least of this people. He was the smallest dude from the smallest tribe of the most politically weak people in that time. His people, the Israelites, were being pushed around by the Midianites. And they cried out to God for help.
So, God, being the same God who would later choose David, the youngest of his brothers, to be King and spoke to Samuel, who was a child, in a time when hearing from God was rare and special, sent an angel to Gideon who was the least of his family, from the least of his tribe, from the least powerful people in the land.
Gideon was under an oak, hiding the crops that he had from the Midianites. The angel said “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior.”
Mighty Warrior? Gideon thought the angel must have been nuts. “Me? You don’t get it” he said to the angel. “If God, the Lord, is with us, why are we being bullied by the Midianites? Our parents and grandparents tell us about how God takes care of everyone and He is a powerful God but why isn’t He taking care of us now?”
The Angel didn’t grace that with a response, instead he told Gideon, “God will take care of you. I’m sending YOU to save your people. Go with what you have and all that you are and can be!”
“Me?” asked Gideon again. “How can I save my people? With what can I save them with? Look at me! My tribe is the smallest and least of all of my people, and out of them, I am the smallest and least.”
And God said to him. “Gideon, you will save your people. Because I, God, will be with you.”
Of course, this is a heavy paraphrased story. But again, parsimony may be helpful. After all, we know that Gideon was the smallest and least. A good many people have felt that way about themselves at one time or another. No one likes to feel small, in any capacity. Nor would anyone enjoy being reduced to being subservient, or bullied, or pushed around. At times, we’re our own bullies, being our worst critics. In any event, being the least of anything can make one lose faith in oneself.
Gideon was there.
“I am the least,” he said to the Angel. Because surely the Angel had to be mistaken. Gideon never believed that he could be called a “Mighty Warrior,” and he might have even thought the Angel was being cheeky. After all, the words “Mighty” and “Warrior” bring to mind visions of John McClane or Rambo, not the smallest guy in his whole tribe.
Even still, the Angel was quite insistent and even God spoke to Gideon in words of affirmation, and reassurance. It wasn’t that Gideon was secretly Batman, nor was it that Gideon had the potential to become Iron Man. It wasn’t the fact that Gideon had other qualities. It wasn’t that Gideon had other traits. He did not make up for his small stature with anything, not wits, not humor, not a utility belt or a magic power. On the contrary, he only pointed out his smallness, convincing himself that nothing too amazing or awesome could come from him.
But the thing is, God will always believe in us, even when we don’t. God sees beyond the physical, beyond the GPAs and the letters of recommendations. Letters of recommendations don’t get us into Heaven; a heart that chases after Jesus does.
It took some convincing for Gideon. Even after, he needed proof, and even then, he was hesitant to follow God’s plan. Nevertheless, he led a small army of three hundred men to defeat the big and bad Midianites and rescue his people.
God didn’t give him an Alice in Wonderland potion that made him grow to be bigger and badder, nor did He give Gideon super cosmic powers. In the end, really, no one needs any of that. When one expects little from oneself, little will come. And it will be neither disappointing nor fulfilling. Anyone can live a life of average contentment. Few live to be extraordinary.
I think the largest step one can take to an extraordinary life, is to expect extraordinary things. The first step to that is to know that even when you don’t believe in yourself, God does. Because in the end, you don’t need anyone else to tell you that you have potential, not even yourself. God has the final say in everything and if He believes you can live to be someone extraordinary, who could ever say otherwise?
So really we have a choice.
Believe God, or don’t.
In the end, that’s always the choice.