Saturday, February 22, 2014

Discernment (Judges 6:36-40)

     Then Gideon said to God, "If You will deliver Israel by my hand, as You said, I will put a piece of wool here on the threshing floor. If dew is only on the fleece, and all the ground is dry, I will know that You will deliver Israel by my strength as You said." And that is what happened. When he got up early in the morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung dew out of it, filling a bowl with water. 
     Gideon then said to God, "Don't be angry with me; let me speak one more time. Please allow me to make one more test with the fleece. Let it remain dry, and the dew be all over the ground." That night God did as Gideon requested: only the fleece was dry, and dew was all over the ground.
Judges 6:36-40 HCSB

The camp fire cast low shadows into the surrounding darkness as embers breathe into the breeze. An eye cast heavenward catches the play stars against the vast background of the cosmos. In the face of the onslaught of your enemies, in the overwhelming vastness of the universe you feel small. What is one person, one oppressed and hated person in the midst of the turmoil and struggle for dignity and self-identity? Small means forgettable, overlooked, insignificant, and worthless. We are forced to ask the question, "Who am I? And why would anyone, let alone God, seek me out?"

It would be a misstep to suggest that this is an experience shared across the queer community. But certainly some aspiring people have found themselves in this situation, queer or straight. Beaten before they can even make a contribution. Gideon doesn't quite fit this mode. Gideon has already had success. He has lead his people in attacking the very heart of those who would do them harm. His armed band sacked and tore down the altar to the god-concept which had flung their enemies at them for the purpose of removing them from the face of the earth. 

I would think that after such success that feelings of smallness would melt away. Maybe Gideon's behavior is driven by another insight: not feelings of insignificance, but rather feelings of aggrandizement. Gideon seems to understand that having victory is far from also having the backing of God. Self-aggrandizement is problematic on several levels, but becomes worse when we believe God is at the heart of such luck on our part. 

The photo by alpahdesigner suggests that pealing back of the ego leaves the subject more vibrant and alive. Note the outer layer appears in black and white, while what is underneath is in color. Gideon seems in tuned with what lies beneath. Victory can be had from luck just as it can be had from the hand of God. Interestingly Gideon does what is actually forbidden, he test the Lord his God. Not once, but twice Gideon seeks to assure himself that leading the liberation of his people is a vision of God and not a vision of the ego. 

At issue here is the role of discernment in the lives of those who work toward equality. Not every battle is God's desire and not every good outcome can be laid at the feet of God. Sometimes people who are right loose, sometimes people who are wrong win. So Gideon seeks to discern is this God's vision for his people, or is this simply his own want to appear important and needed?

This portion of Gideon's story comes to a close as God moves in the midst of Gideon's discernment process. I encourage all people of faith who are discerning their place in the midst of the so called culture wars, or in the debates about who is in and who is out, or simply wondering how best to come out to family and friends to place your "fleece" out and see what God responds. You might find as in the photo above it is your ego needs speaking to you. Or you might find the glory and mystery of the Sacred responding to you. 

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