“The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…” Judges 13:24-25
I’ve been thinking about Samson lately. His story has become interwoven into my speech these days and I can’t stop talking about him. Seems like God continues to use the life of the legendary strongman to bring fresh revelation into my own. When the subject originally came to me, it was more of a caution: don’t be like Samson! Many of us can recall the story of Samson and Delilah and how she betrayed him to the Philistines. He, in turn, destroyed a vast number of them with his superior strength. As I dwell on his life now, I see how Sampson contributed to his own downfall, ending with his spectacular death. He took down his enemies with him in a real blaze of glory, worthy of a hero.
But Sampson wasn’t the smartest cookie, plainly, when it came to love as evidenced by his choices. He was gifted with supernatural ability and dedicated to God from the womb. But on the love front, he often made poor decisions. He first chose a girl of the Philistines, enemy and oppressor of Israel. At their wedding, Samson made a foolish bet. If the guests couldn’t answer his riddle, they’d owe him thirty outfits, and vice versa. (I’m thinking he wanted to be sharp, LOL! Then and now, a person’s wealth could be judged on the quantity and quality of clothing.) His wife then sold him out to the angry townspeople to save her own skin. Samson’s ego was damaged when she told her neighbors the answer to his riddle. He had to pay up now. Samson was so upset with them for acquiring the secret of his riddle that he paid the debt grimly by accosting thirty men and stripping them of their clothing.
A pattern began to emerge. Although Samson is listed as a judge of Israel, he chronically lacked good judgment. His actions were more like those of a spoiled, denied child. You could pretty much preface any display of strength with, in his anger …. Samson was ever re-acting, having tantrums instead of behaving like a great man of God. His epic strength was not accompanied, alas, by wisdom. Still, as my kids would say, God rocked with Samson. God’s gift was not predicated on Samson living a perfect life. The job of the judge was to deliver Israel from their oppressor. Repeatedly, the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came over Samson, giving him the power to defeat his enemies. Even down to the end, God restored Samson’s strength, which enabled the shackled, defeated judge to destroy more Philistines in death than in life.
So many lessons I’m gleaning from the life of Samson but this morning I saw his life through fresh eyes. Samson was born different. Entered this world to be different. Was never supposed to fit in. Never meant to assimilate. He would always be a big fish in a little pond, ever misunderstood. When your greatness is evident that doesn’t mean you will be revered. Reviled, more likely. It occurred to me, Samson may have reached for a Philistine wife because that may have been his way of trying to find his place in the world. Did he even have a friend? Where did he belong? In one instance, when he left off killing the Philistines, he was found dwelling in a cave. The enemy came a knocking and his own people turned him in, again to save their skin. Samson promptly destroyed more of the enemy. But he had no focus or direction, never a carefully laid out plan, only in response to something done to him. Imagine if that power were channeled and purposely used? Might he have been an even greater champion?
Do you ever question where you are in life? Why are you the way you are? Feel like you don’t fit in? Have you ever felt mistreated because you don’t belong? I know I have. But until recently I didn’t understand why. Samson’s story answered my questions at last. When you’re born to stand out, (to paraphrase my brother) people won’t know what to do with you. Simple as that. Because they don’t understand you, you’ll be rejected. Your differences, your quest to just be true to you will make others uncomfortable. That’s because some folks spend their entire lives trying to be like everyone else and have what others have. You don’t. And that challenges your family, coworkers, and neighbors, even your sisters and brothers at church and makes them wonder if they are doing all they can to live up to their calling. Your life judges them. Your very presence disturbs them. It screams different. And so, people actively do things to disturb you, to shake your peace because they don’t understand your drive to use every gift you have and be everything you can be. Rather than discover that journey for themselves they want to force you to be more like them.
And so, my lesson this morning is still: DON’T BE LIKE SAMSON! LOL! Don’t let your potential die with you, unfulfilled. Sure, he took a lot of people with him but as a judge, he should have led people to more than their deaths. He was supposed to lead a nation. Maybe like David, he could have developed an army, created more fearless warriors like himself and really done some damage. Instead, he died alone, with no wife to mourn him, childless and no legacy for the nation of Israel other than that he died well. Don’t let others cause you to react and live your life on their terms. When you allow other folks to direct your actions, they become your puppet master. Don’t be afraid to be you, unmistakably and undeniably, and let others deal with their own discomfort. Perhaps you will set such an example as to inspire them to live a more authentic life. Perhaps not. Folks won’t make it easy. Just remember the first two syllables in beautiful are your key to a life well lived and full of supernatural feats of your own: Be you. Know that it’s ok to be different. You weren’t designed to fit in.