Hidden with Christ but not hiding
Gideon hid when the terror came. When the fear digested him from the inside out, he ran and hid. He hated being occupied in an occupied land, where his people could do nothing against the Midianite oppressors, but it had been that way as long as he had memory, and there was absolutely nothing to be done about it.
He felt nauseous hearing the war cry and the thousands of warriors rushing in like the ocean’s unrelenting crest; the way their oppressors spared nothing- only leaving dust and ash in their wake. No rally ever rose in His peoples’ hearts, nor war-cry in their mouths.
Wives. Children. None of them could be protected - so they hid. In caves. Under cliffs. Wherever they could, wondering if the God His ancestors talked about had grown deaf, or worse, was cut-off from their cries.
For seven years, countless days upon days, Gideon hid. So, imagine an ordinary day like any other - hiding in a place where his people used to make drink for celebrations, now used to grind out enough grain to make some bread - Imagine his astonishment, when an Angel of the Lord appeared and turned to him, “The Lord is with you Mighty Warrior.”
Like a frightened child finally discovered in a spiritual game of hide and seek, Gideon could hide no longer. (Judges 6)
Maybe you’ve heard a bit of Gideon’s story; I first learned of the grain-grinder one hot summer day in a neighborhood VBS, around the ripe age of 11. Strange stories of Gideon’s request for miraculous fleeces to confirm the voice of God, and outsized military victories through unusual means -whittled down armies, blaring trumpets, rattling pots captured my pre-pubescent imagination.
God’s defeat of the Midianites through Gideon is a story of odd miracles, and by the story’s end, Gideon is a man protected and hidden in God’s shadow, alive and daring. But Gideon’s story doesn’t begin that way. When we first meet our protagonist, he is hiding. Personally, I’ve learned the hard way: One of these things is not like the other.
Being hidden and hiding are not the same thing.
Being “hidden with Christ in God” as Colossians 3 (NIV) declares, is a beautiful spiritual reality and glorious invitation. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we are tucked into God Himself, like a yolk inside an egg. But hiding? Hiding is a human bent, a reaction to a myriad of things - pain, fear, insecurity, over-exposure, anxiety.
Maybe you’re in your own Gideon moment right now. You’ve spent too long living in fear of using your voice, of running into the unknown adventure with Jesus. Before we go look more deeply into Gideon’s story, I want to share with you something that has assisted my oh-so-Gideon-prone heart.
You can trust an unknown future to a known God.
Whatever you step with Jesus into – a new job, a move, a hard conversation, that fill-in-the-blank leap of faith– Jesus goes first. God gets there first. There is no room you enter in which God isn’t already standing. You serve a God Who sees around the corners you can’t. When we remind our hiding-hearts of these truths, we can raise the spiritual sail again and prepare to hear to holy words. Just like Gideon.
There is so much contained in this powerfully brief exchange, but I want to focus on just a few transformative elements.
Take in God’s Turning
There is little in Gideon’s story that slays me more than the phrase, “The Lord turned to him.” The God of all glory, turns His very self to the terrified, hiding man. It’s no different for us. In our stuckness, the Lord turns to us. When we’re frozen in fear, the Lord turns to us. When we can’t possibly try again, the Lord turns to us. Jesus always makes the first move. Leaning into that realization, releases into the next step.
Ask God to Grace your Go
After turning to him - the Lord Himself says, “Go in the strength you have”.
Go. This short-little-word embodies the powerful sense of movement from one place to another. Can you hear Jesus’ words? Go, your faith has healed you – Go, and learn what this means – Go into all the earth. Sometimes, as simple as it may seem, we’ve got. to. go. Our hiding hearts are transformed not by standing still, but by moving.
Recently, I went through rehab for an injury. My natural bent was to protect the injury, to coddle and immobilize it, for fear of further damage. Yet, my slightly pushy physical therapist knew better: She forced me to move the stiff sinews and muscles I thought I could not. Even though the process was frightening, before long, I began to regain flexibility and mobility. My muscles loosened, and step by halting step, I regained my physical “go”. My PT mid-wifed hope and courage in my physical body, precisely by asking me to do the thing I would have bet a million pounds of chocolate I could not. I took the next step. I regained my go. Bit by bit. And, finally….
Stand in a Surprising Strength
In our previous Scriptural dialogue, God says to Gideon, Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the hands of the Midianites. At first glance, we might be tempted to think that this is God’s call to Gideon to utilize what small measure of strength and self-confidence he possesses.
However, I don’t believe that at all the heart of God’s words. Let’s face it, Gideon doesn’t really have any strength of his own. But Gideon does possess a strength he doesn’t yet know he has. To be sure, it’s an odd kind of strength - the kind the Bible says is made perfect in abject weakness. Speaking to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8, the Lord says, “For my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” (NKJV)
Did you catch the peculiar place where God’s strength is perfected?
God doesn’t say His strength is simply made a touch stronger in weakness. He says His strength is made perfect, whole and complete right in the place of deepest weakness. This is why Paul can proclaim as a response to God’s promise, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)
Our culture teaches us to boast in strength, not to hold high our weakness or wounding. Yet, it is our weakness that is the perfect magnet for the perfect strength of God Almighty. This unusual exchange is one of the many the upside-down components of life with Jesus. He chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. He uses weak things to confound the strong. He uses lowly things to nullify things that are, all so no one can boast before Him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-31)
In His inestimable grace, He calls Gideons to become judges. He calls hiders to become leaders. He calls the immobile to move again.
Because of these things, I gently remind my heart, and maybe yours as well:
It’s time to stop hiding. It’s time to join Jesus wherever He leads.