I was reminded today about about a people freed from slavery in Egypt who were supposed to go into their promised land. God told them it was time and he had a beautiful inheritance for them; all they had to do was trust him and walk into their destiny. [You can read this story in Numbers 13]
When they came around to the border they sent in twelve spies to scout out the land. Indeed it was a beautiful land bursting with provision… and apparently giants. Ten of the twelves scouts brought back a “bad report” saying yes the land looks great, but there was no way they could go into the land because of the giants. Their words sent an entire encampment, that had seen the mighty God of Israel drown the entire Egyptian army in the sea assuring their safety, into a downward spiral of fear as they told them the land consumes people! But there were two who had a different perspective.
Caleb (whose name means courage) quieted the grumbling people and said: Let’s go AT ONCE and occupy the land for we are well able to overcome! But the people were afraid and shrank back.
Joshua (whose name means God is my salvation) was greatly distressed and tried to reason with the frightened people (my paraphrase): If God told us he would bring us into the land we can trust him! The protection has been removed from our adversaries. Do not fear the giants in the land for they are bread for us! We will eat them for breakfast!
This story came to mind over the weekend as I moved through some troubling adversity and with each step I took into the stormy waters I considered what it was like to live as if terrifying giants were only good for breakfast.
I have been rethinking over time how we pray. When I say we… I mean me… and friends, and church acquaintances and other people I overhear in print or audibly. I don’t have answers, but I do have questions. I don’t know how everyone else should pray, or what we should ask for to pray, but I have noticed an inclination – at least in myself – to ask God to remove the adversity from my life. I don’t think this is wrong. Well, not exactly. However, I have found experientially sometimes adversity has some purpose.
This is all weedy and I won’t untangle it for this blog I’m sure. I think it’s a lifetime kind of question, and so I am sorry not to give more clarity here on that matter, however, as I make it my intention to get close to and follow Jesus into the purpose and dreams he has laid out for us to do together, I see both that he wants to give me a beautiful inheritance and also he wants me to grow into a strong and powerful woman of his kingdom.
This is such a strange tension to balance. My inheritance is mine for the taking, you cannot earn an inheritance. However God seems to want me to learn strength and the ability to overcome things. Actually that’s super cool because when too much is given by parents we have seen that contribute to weakness and a spoiled fragile condition. Yet, I know people who have taken the effort to become strong in heart and mind and have truly inherited something magnificent are quite stunning and rare. They move through the world with a unique generosity that comes from not having earned what they carry, and not being afraid to spread it around because it also does not define them. They do not fear loss and they enjoy much.
Conversely, I have seen the people who have learned to work for every thing they have often carry an (under the surface) pride and an expectation that everyone else needs to work for everything as well or they aren’t worthy. One must deserve what they are given. This makes for a strange “generosity” that has little (not so) invisible strings attached.
Clearly God intended to gift his people a magnificent inheritance that no one could boast how they earned it, and still he expected them to take on giants. For fun?
I have come to believe God has a magnificent inheritance for me as well. He still hasn’t told me all the details, but I’m getting used to that. I can rest in the certainty that it is available for me, and I can’t earn it. In fact I’ve come to see I can’t do a whole lot to push it forward before it’s time and God is always protecting me from premature promotion and acquiring of assets, as well as requiring that I grow in his training program. This training program is about loving my enemies, and walking in grace toward people I don’t understand, showing honor to people who think differently than me and finding things about them to encourage and respect. It’s about being slow to react and asking for better spiritual insight on situations before judging and assuming. It’s to make the choice of humility more ingrained– higher up on my list of options — as I experience how humility is a superpower of the kingdom life. This is a constant training if you’re in my shoes. I never lack opportunity to improve that’s for sure.
So when I arrived at my equine endurance event on Friday afternoon driving my truck with a trailer hauling my “best” horse only to find I had no ability to move the truck into reverse to park in my camping spot, I was concerned but didn’t panic right away. If I kept moving forward when I meant to go backward I was eventually going to collide with someone else’s rig so I bailed and took a loop around the grassy field to try again. This time I paused on the flat and tried again. Again no change. So I tried to put the truck in park. That also did not work. The only option available at the moment was drive. Amazingly I had gotten gas about 20 minutes earlier so I had a full tank (this would come into play later as very important), and somewhere after that quick stop and ride camp something happened to take away all my options except to drive forward.
Now I was slightly panicked. I turned the truck off and now at least it was stopped, put on the parking brake and waited a moment. Maybe turning it back on would magically reset it?
Nope. Any removal of my foot from the brake meant forward motion. Now the truck wouldn’t start because it was actually in drive, and has to be in park to turn on. Now I have zero movement unless I’m rolling.
I got a little help securing the tires to be double sure and began to think.
How strange I got all the way here with no trouble and now this… How strange I just filled up my tank when it wasn’t that low, it’s not like me to get that ahead on gas… how strange I was able to make a circle in the field and not need to reverse and also how wonderful (so far) no injuries from this slightly frightening malfunction. Ok. I am here, God got me all the way here safely. He must have a plan to get me out of here. So I’ll just have to ask him to show me what to do next. And I will not fear.
And so I began doing the next thing. This has been incredibly helpful for me in this year where I have noticed a kind of acceleration in my life as things open up more. I could be overwhelmed but one day in prayer I heard the advice come: stop trying to sort everything out that is coming up- just figure out what is next and do that.
First I took my horse off the trailer and began to set up her camping pen. She did not need to in the trailer with a slightly precarious vehicle.
I called my mechanic and he said not to panic because it seems terrible but his opinion was it was most likely a cable and that cable could even have simply come unattached which would be a very easy fix.
I vetted my horse in for the race the following day.
I found someone in the camp who was mechanically inclined and when he had some time he came over and crawled under the truck to help me manually put the truck in a different gear. We seemed to have some luck in this and he helped me get parked in a way I could easily get out and wasn’t on a sharp incline that could prove treacherous if the truck rolled.
I did everything I could do in this situation, then while I waited, I read in the shade…
By the way this is unusual. I have a LOT to do on the day before an event getting camp set up and organized and I never sit and read in the shade… but that day it’s all I could do, so I settled in and waited. In peace.
Dean was able to get under the truck and monkey around a bit getting me back into park, but we couldn’t seem to get reverse working. (I now understand why but it was unclear then) We came up with a plan that on Sunday when I was ready to roll, that we would get the truck started, get it into drive and I would need to drive straight home to unload my horse- without any option of stopping or needing to reverse. Good thing I had a full tank, it would just get me home! My mechanic agreed it was the best plan.
I was less than thrilled at the idea of hauling my horse home in a truck I knew was not functioning properly, but I had a solution for now so I moved on to the rest of my weekend. I had peace to let that go for the time being.
The next morning I felt strangely like I was missing something as I warmed up my horse around camp before the 7am start. I was all ready to go and went through the checklist in my mind. It wasn’t until 10 miles into the ride I realized I left my rider card in the truck- this is the one thing you’re supposed to always have on you and the vets write on it at every vet check. It’s your official ride document. Bummer.
I figured at that point my only choices were continue or quit and it wasn’t a hard choice. Hopefully they are used to one or two people like me and have a solution for a missing rider card. Sure enough they had an extra they filled out for me while I got my horse ready for vetting. Problem overcome.
The second “loop” of this 55 mile ride was 26 miles about half of which or more were serious mountain climbs covered with every kind of rock embedded and loose. It was brutal and slow. My horse was miserable, and I was doing everything I could to keep her engaged mentally not grinding to a slow crawl or a complete stand still in protest. The only hope we had in the first half of that second part of the ride was that there was a “hospitality stop” for the horses and riders around mile 14. We went out alone and rode the entire thing alone, we saw at a distance a few random hikers but otherwise we were in the wilderness and it wasn’t the beautiful serene wilderness, it was the wild, rocky, steep, hot, brutal wildnerness.
I urged her on with the hope that soon… soon… soon… I am sure that soon… there will be snacks, and a friendly face, and some cool water and then refreshed we will continue on the last 12 miles and it will be better. It has to be better than this. We went from brutal horrible trail to sucky gravelly road. We were grateful for sucky after brutal horrible. I begged my horse to get trotting- she was thinking it would be better to just relax for an hour or two, maybe set up camp. She was physically ok, but mentally she was waning. I was too. But we cannot die here on the mountain so she obliged and ran through the rocks the best she could slipping or hitting a bad rock every once in a while and each one I felt bad for her as she gave me her best.
I kept watching my GPS… 14 miles… 15 miles… 16 miles… why haven’t we seen the checkpoint? I even saw a sign for it on a tree, and from the map it appears to be ON the trail so I couldn’t miss it right? 17 miles… 18 miles… by 19 miles I was beginning to panic (slightly). Something is wrong.
I wasn’t sure what was wrong at first.
Was I on the WRONG TRAIL? That is a nightmare… first I forgot my rider card and now I’m possibly lost in the wilderness.
I stopped (to my horse’s great gladness, we were now around mile 35 since we left camp at 7am) and checked the image of the map from my phone, zoomed in… checked my GPS track, the maps aren’t the same but my track is the shape of the trail right? There was no turn off to the check point on the map I was given. Was I even on the right trail? Would I ever get back? We are definitely going to die out here.
Of course when you are lost in the brutal wilderness what are the chances you have cell service? I hadn’t had it for the past 19 miles but now, as I paused to decide what to do… I looked again and I had just enough, maybe to get a text out.
I texted Mike back at the volunteer base and at least they could know I was OK and probably at this point I must have missed the check point.
Wait, am I ok or am I going to die out here? Ok, no, for real, we are totally ok. Just maybe lost. But maybe not lost. Yes, we are ok!
I pulled myself together once again and looked for a marker ribbon, I’d been seeing them all afternoon, so I knew I was on a trail that was marked. But was it the right colors? This happened to me at 2am last year at Big South Fork in Tennessee. Of course it was dark then…
Black and white: indeed I am on the correct trail.
What happened? Did they have a miscommunication and shut the checkpoint down before I’d gotten through? Did I need to turn somewhere and missed it? Did I cut off a part of the trail and was now disqualified?
At that moment none of that was clear so I had to make a choice.
What do I do now?
I decided we accept that we missed the stop and just keep on following the ribbons and make it back to camp. And we would do it as if we were still in this event and give it our best. There was a distinct possibility that not checking in at the farthest point would have us disqualified especially if somehow there was a small but official section of trail I missed. It seemed highly likely we would not complete the ride but I made the decision that I had done my best and missed something and whatever comes will be right.
As we continued on down the sucky (but not brutal and horrible) trail that continued to improve to a softer grassy road then a decent gravel road, my horse agreed to trot. Eventually we found a stream in the wilderness and around 20 miles since leaving the vet check, she took a big camel style drink. GOOD MARE! I had carried electrolytes for her and gave them to her there. This helped her get some more energy and within a few more miles we hit some grass and she stopped to chow the grass which is also a good sign. She was hot and tired and not very happy I had dragged her into this ill-advised adventure, but she was eating with a healthy appetite. We were not going to die here.
My GPS map showed my line continuing to converge with the line that would lead us back into the vet hold and volunteer area that would mean humans, a 45 minute rest, supplies, and if we were still in good shape a pretty easy 9 miles of gravel road back into the finish line. If we weren’t disqualified we should have a successful day in the end.
My horse was tired of all the rocks and mountains and I walked and grazed her the last couple of miles since my calculation showed I had the time to give her that. As we walked I told her all this work she did today might not make it onto her permanent record. She looked at me as if I was an idiot. No other horses ever asks her about her endurance career miles or her completion record. Horses do not care about such things even a little.
I smiled. What a sense of humor God has. If we indeed finished the ride and got no credit for it, it would be somehow this perfect humility reminder. I came into this ride as a test of the system, the things we are doing I believe in, and these endurance events show me how things are working. The push the system to the limits. They reveal what is working and what isn’t. How fitting that I would get everything I need, I’d see how my horse is doing, I’d get a great successful ride, and my horse would know how we did the ride, I would know, God would know… but the humans would show a failure to complete, my record would reflect a failure where the deep truth would be a great success. It made me smile. Leave it to God to remind me what matters… what other people think or the deeper truths that last past human record keeping? As we talked this over I almost found myself hoping it would all go completely unrecorded.
My horse had high grades at the vet hold and the vet was certain there was no penalty for missing the checkpoint. It was there for our benefit and did not add trail or miles. In the end it was the ride manager that makes the call. I had the GPS file that showed our route so my horse and I saddled up and went out for the final stretch to the finish still unsure if we would be recorded.
We finished the race with over an hour left on the clock and had great vet scores at the end. She was trotting and willing and had good metabolic grades. No muscle soreness or tightness anywhere. She was healthy and we had finished. On the way back to the trailer the ride manager found us and said she was so glad we were ok, and we had no penalty for missing the checkpoint.
It was almost hard to remember how miserable and worried I was for a short time. Each time I found myself about to panic, I paused to ask: ok, well what am I going to do? Make a decision, commit, and do that. Then I accepted where I was, what was possible, and what I was going to do, then commit to doing it, and knowing that no matter what it would be ok.
The next morning packed up and ready to head for home, my truck would not start. This was bad news. The person who’d helped me had already left and I didn’t know what to do. I felt that worry and fear try to disrupt and I refused to partner with the discouragement. God had a way out of this. It might not be the plan I’d chose, but He’s not surprised and He’s not going to leave me here alone. So what do I do about it?
I called my mechanic friend and explained I needed him to walk me through changing the gears at the transmission under the truck because, now I am all there is to get this done, so it has to be me. I crawled under the truck with him on the phone and he began to tell me what to look for. My first thought was I have no idea what this all is underneath a truck and what I’m looking at. Then I paused again and refused to fear. I looked and listened and it became totally clear what he was saying. I saw the arm to the transmission and reached up and moved it back and forth. I was shifting the truck into different gears. Joy! I was doing it!
The gear was not all the way in position to park which is why it didn’t start. When I pushed it all the way and tried again, the truck started up! In truth this was so much better than if it had just worked. This wasn’t too much for me! I had the help I needed and I learned how to do it. I felt not just that the adversity had been removed, but I had OVERCOME! The whole weekend came into focus. I had a fair amount of adversity and each thing I was able to overcome and continue, with help when I needed it.
To come full circle out of the story, back to how we pray…
I can’t say for sure why what happened to my truck did. Before I left home Friday morning, I took a moment to pray for protection, and I spent some time to acknowledge that my life, my ride weekend, my horse and truck and everything I have is in service to the King of the Universe and so also protected by him. It would have been easy to see this potentially dangerous situation as a lack of protection over my life, who did this? Was it evil or was it a challenge laid by my own father to grow and test me? I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t do “bad” things in our lives because it’s against his character, that he allows bad things sometimes for his purpose. I don’t completely have this sorted out. Is it so obvious that a broken cable in my truck is “bad”? It is broken, broken is generally “bad”. What was clear, was just like the giants in the land, the adversity I faced was going to crumple before me as my father led me through the problems into victory. It wasn’t necessary for God to make the giants disappear, together we were going to be giant killers.
I think we are inclined to pray the problems don’t come, or are removed. We seem to hold tightly to our comfort and understanding. If a flight is delayed or canceled, if the truck breaks while on a trip, if we miss the hospitality stop, forget a rider card, get injured, run into adversity I think we tend toward asking: what did I miss or do wrong? Why have I not been protected from this problem?
I would have liked my truck to be somehow miraculously healed, but there was a sense of excitement and encouragement when I was able to overcome the problem. Maybe the more of these things I walk through with God’s leading I can also help others grow stronger and more fearless. A resilience is built when we learn that problems don’t have to take us out. There is something powerful not in having less storms, but in the experience that storms don’t have to take us out. If the powers of darkness only have threats of storms and adversity to bring at us, then becoming fearless of those things brings a huge freedom to our lives and darkness has less and less to bring against us. If we always need Jesus to remove the threat in order to be confident we are always slightly at risk, if we are unbalanced when things don’t work out as we had hoped or planned we live a life with an underlying anxiety. If we begin to eat adversity as our daily bread then the darkness only serves in feeding us and making us stronger… that is a real defeat! That is power and freedom in Christ!
It reminded me of Romans 5:
How do we rejoice in suffering?
Maybe it’s in eating giants for breakfast.
When we have lived in the experience of the hope and the love of God poured into us we begin to have that fearless expectation that no matter what the adversity looks like, God will bring us through into the hope of glory. I had some glory dripping off me when I climbed out from under my truck having learned to put it into gear and now being able to drive it home.
And in the hours I drove home I spent much time sending that dripping glory on back at him in thanksgiving and reveled in how much he loves me to put so much thought and care into every details of my growth and development into a daughter who can handle the assignments he has in mind for me… I can’t wait to find out why I need to change truck gears at the transmission…
2 thoughts on “Giants for breakfast”
I share in the experience.. waiting to find out why I had to learn a certain skill.. adding to my toolbox of capabilities… I believe ,especially after reading your detailed account.. what was it for??? I believe we are being build up in our confidence.. if we be faithful with the little..more is going to be required of us.. YES WE CAN!!
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