Transformation Garden - May 18, 2009


May 18 

“And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.”
Judges 8: 30, King James Version


“Actions and Intentions” Part IV

Momentum In the Wrong Direction

“Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!”
Fyodor Dostoyevski

As I look at my life, where is the momentum of my behavior leading me right now?

“How tiresome it is to give up pursuits to which we have become attached.  A man (or woman) enjoying a happy home life has only to see (another) who attracts (them), or spend five or six pleasant days gambling, and (they) will be very sorry to go back to what (they) were doing before.  It happens every day.”
Blaise Pascal


“It is not the ape, nor the tiger in man or woman that I fear, but the donkey.”
Attributed toWilliam Temple

Before Jim and I were married, one of his friends, who had been married for awhile, told Jim that in order to really see what I was like, he should take me on a weekend camping trip.  “This way,” Jim’s friend advised, “You’ll see the real Dorothy.  No make-up. No hot rollers.  No fancy stuff.”

So one weekend, this couple invited us to go to Yosemite National Park, a most gorgeous natural wonder, and spend the weekend “roughing it!”  We laid our sleeping bags on the ground around a campfire where we did our cooking, and these were our accommodations for 3 days.

Well – I had an idea of my own, too!  Spending my summers at my grandparents canyon ranch in Arizona, one of my favorite pastimes was riding horses.  I’m not bragging but I was a good rider.  I rode bareback through the creek and canyons and up and down the mountainsides.

So I suggested that our four-person camping party spend a whole day mule riding up to the base of Quarter Dome where we could see the Nevada Falls.  No one else had ever been mule riding so I had a distinct advantage!  All day on a mule is quite an experience if you have never done it before.  Thankfully, these particular mules were well-trained to the trail, keeping right in line as they plodded up the steep incline nose to tail. We all got a big workout!

Our trip up was relatively uneventful.  But coming back down, an interesting thing happened.  First, the mule’s speed greatly increased as they trotted down hill.  And second, knowing their hay bin was at the end of the ride, I couldn’t believe how much faster these creatures began to move, the closer they got to their desired “reward.”  In fact, my mule took off galloping toward his “supper.”

There’s a life lesson in the example of our Yosemite mule train and it has to do with the momentum that propels our lives when we engage in behavior that sends us downward.

Just like mules and donkeys that can be trained to follow a habitual pattern of behavior, so we humans tend to get into ruts with our behavior, whether its good or bad.  However, when we begin to set a course that points down, our movement, our motion, the impetus of the momentum of our behavior begins to accelerate the downward trend of our lives.  As one person so aptly wrote, “One wrong step leads to another.”  While I would like to believe that one step in the wrong direction or one false action doesn’t have a serious consequence and can be easily remedied, oh, how wrong I am to think this way.

As we found out yesterday, Gideon’s life was one outstanding commitment to God, that is until he decided to make an ephod and place it in “his city.”  Oops!  The “I”, the “me”, the “my” came into play before God’s leading.  The Bible says this one action became a “snare unto Gideon, and to his house.” (Judges 8: 27, K.J.V.).  Just one little step and momentum kicked into gear and sadly it wasn’t pushing Gideon in an upward direction.

A few verses later, the Bible gives us this pathetic report about one who had been a leader for God – “Gideon had seventy sons for he had many wives.”  Please remember, girls didn’t count, so it is quite likely Gideon had well-over a hundred children by these many wives.

The first step Gideon took on his downward spiral was to take on the prerogatives of the Aaronic priesthood without divine authority.  He did this when he made his own imitation ephod and placed it in his city.

The second step was taking on his own prerogative of marriage, a gift God gave His children in their perfect garden home when God stated, “A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2: 24).  These words from God do not say that a man should leave his parents and have many wives.  There’s not one place in Scripture that approves of the behavior Gideon chose to engage in.  Gideon just decided he had the prerogative to do as he pleased.  At that time in history, men of wealth and power, men who were put in places of high earthly esteem were also those who paraded around with their “harem” of wives. So it is apparent that Gideon said, “Since I’m a bigshot, I can act like a bigshot.”  This is exactly what he did.  And as we will see tomorrow, step number two only increased the momentum downward, making it easier for step number three to be taken.

Theologian Reihold Niebuhr observed that, “All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions.”  I believe, as we look at Gideon, when he was called by God, he never, ever intended he would take from God what was God’s alone.  I doubt he ever intended for an ephod in his city to become a “snare.”  And I don’t believe Gideon intended to bring evil on his family by marrying so many women.  He was just following the crowd – putting one foot in front of the other.  He chose to follow the other mules.  And when the direction changed and the downward momentum took over, Gideon began to go faster and faster into a pit that brought a great deal of heartache to many people in the future.

One wrong step, leads to another.  Our lesson from Gideon is – don’t walk the path of life like a mule!

“The custom of sinning takes away the sense of it, the course of the world takes away the shame of it.”
John Owen


“Lord, I am blind and helpless, stupid and ignorant, cause me to hear; cause me to know; teach me to do; lead me.”
Henry Martyn

“O God our Father, direct and control us in every part of our life; our tongues, that we speak no false words; our actions, that we may do nothing to shame ourselves or hurt others; our minds, that we may think no evil or bitter thoughts; our hearts, that they may be set only on pleasing You, through Christ our Lord.”
Prayer Book

Your friend,
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus 
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