As a boy, I faced many giants -- all of them terrible in my young mind. Whether it was the bullies who chased me home from the bus stop almost every afternoon, or the imaginary monsters lurking under my bed at night, I believed I had much to fear.
Fear is a contagious thing that grows larger over time, and more terrifying in dimension and degree. If given ground, it will double its demands and force its will without mercy.
Since those fearful childhood times, I have learned to hang onto the Bible's assurance that a "spirit of fear" is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7).
In the Fellowship of the Ring movie, Gandalf leads his small band through the dark and menacing mines of Moria. Before they can exit, they are confronted by a Balrog, a demonic creature of fire and shadows. Gandalf sends the rest of his band ahead to safety and stands alone against the sulfurous beast with a whip of fire in its grip.
Facing the giant, he yells with force and might, "You shall not pass!" Then Gandalf drives his staff into the rock at his feet, and a lightning bolt of power stops the nightmare beast in its tracks.
In that critical moment, Gandalf's courage is what counted.
The Bible book of Joshua reveals another man of courage, named Caleb. When I consider Caleb, I think of the Latin phrase, "Veni, Vidi, Vici." It is said that Julius Caesar used the phrase to communicate to Rome news of his victory over the Greek, Pharnaces II, in the Battle of Zela. It translates as "I came, I saw, I conquered."
This perfectly describes the attitude and vision of Caleb, who as an 85-year old man refused to surrender his passion for the high ground of God's promises. Without a flinch, Caleb said, "Give me those mountains where the giants live" (Joshua 14).
Repeatedly, Caleb is described as a man with "a different spirit." What made this man stand out among his peers?
It was courage. Like fear, courage is contagious, too.
It's what's required to climb mountains and face the bully giants that block the road to freedom and life. Courage is needed when you are tempted to wave the white flag -- whether at mid-life, mid-task, mid-term, or midway through marriage, parenting or any other critical challenge in life.
Along with Joshua, Caleb stood firm against a great tide of majority opinion -- those who turned back from God's promises and were content to live in the midway places of an empty wilderness. He refused to join the ranks of those timid souls who held God's promises at arm's length and counseled caution and retreat. Somewhere early on in life, he had decided to finish strong and enjoy the peaks and promises of God-giants or no giants.
Veni, Vidi, Vici.
If, however, we fail to hold onto faith and courage when scaling life's mountains we may end up with Veni, Vidi, Volo in domum redire ("I came, I saw, I want to go home").
But turning back or going home doesn't face the problem or make bully giants disappear. It only shrinks the sphere of our freedoms until ultimately, there is no home to go home to.
-- The Rev. Micah Smith is president and founder of Global Gateway Network (www.globalgatewaynetwork.org) with offices in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.