“What?!” I hear you ask…
Well, one thing that I love about Tolkien’s object of the ‘one ring’ in Lord of the Rings is how thru it he unmasks the real problem with the world. It seems also by accident. The real problem is not that we don’t have the strength to do something about evil, but that any strength that we do have is itself part of the problem.
A little hobbit is the only one who can carry the ring because the ring’s psychosomatic temptations have little effect on a mind not in the least bit used to and hence concerned with the idols of strength and power. Meanwhile those used to and hence hungry for strength, fall to its wiles, all the time providing the most righteous excuses imaginable for their growing idolatry. (Sounds unnervingly familiar!)
“I ask only for the strength to defend my people!….If you would but lend me the ring…” -Boromir to Frodo in the forest of Amon-Hen (The Fellowship of the Ring).
It is in this way that the weak shame the strong in the narrative of Tolkien. Yep, it’s a narrative that is, like it or not, utterly saturated in the most fundamental gospel principal(s).
Meanwhile I am nearing the end of my personal journey through Proverbs. A few weeks ago now I came across this one: Proverbs 21:22
“The wise conquer the city of the strong and level the fortress in which they trust.”
That, is how you make America great again. (Sorry couldn’t resist.)
But of course wisdom in proverbs is far more than merely being smarter than the other guy. Proverbs is about God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is most clearly displayed in that he does not use his infinite strength to triumph, but his wisdom. Wisdom, so wise that it appears as absolute foolishness to the human mind which is of course obsessed with….strength.
Nonetheless, Jesus indeed conquered the ‘city of the strong’; Rome itself, by the sign of a cross….the most humiliating way to die.
Such a thought causes me to ask the question; how many other things are there that may at first seem foolish to me precisely because God is in fact behind them? It’s so easy to default to our own obsession with strength. (This includes a trust in hard logic as this is really a mental form of strength.)
I wonder if it is because it is the ‘fortress that we built.’ In other words we have some measure of control over our own personal strength(s) in various areas. I know that I tend to want to set up structures ultimately because it feels good. It affirms me in the short term. I can say things like; “I built that, I was responsible for that,” and so on.
On the other hand, it is interesting how many times I have struggled with God’s commands because they call into question the very ‘fortresses’ in which I have built and therefore trust. This struggle can happen in a number of different ways. One example is God’s command to ‘love our enemies’ in fact even to ‘love one another’ often dismantles our little relationship boundaries that we constantly create in order to preserve ourselves emotionally. Therefore such commands are not in and of themselves the problem, but the fact that radical love ends up completely decimating our clever little schemes we put in place to manage life with others.
But as I have mentioned before, in the reflection of every biblical command is a promise. Trusting in God’s wisdom (especially in regards to relationships) is the only way to have our eyes opened to how much more strong and dependable God’s protection is from our own little fortress. Moreover, the greatest challenges become the greatest opportunities of reliance upon God and hence front row seats to miracles of the Spirit.
Satan on the other hand will only inflame the temptation to rely on our own strength and resources to solve the problem. But the problem is never the problem, but how we handle it is the problem.
The key to rely on God I believe is to balance a ‘just do it’ mentality with a ‘just pray about it’ mentality. Going to God first is the highest honour we can give him. Moreover, to realise that wisdom trumps strength is to at the same time; commit to a life of prayer.
The key to being stronger than anything that can hit you, is to embrace wisdom, embrace the truth of our helplessness and embrace God. What results is a strength stronger than simply ‘being strong’ and perhaps more importantly, a strength that doesn’t demand that we also become tough, too tough to understand others.
God’s wisdom trumps man’s strength every time.