Transformation Garden - October 3, 2011


“And Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman.”
Judges 14: 1
King James Version

“Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.”
Judges 16:1
King James Version

“And it came to pass afterward, that he (Samson) loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.”
Judges 16: 4
King James Version


“Javelina Habits”

“A cable.  We weave a thread of it every day, and at last we cannot break it.”
Horace Mann

What behavior in my life has become a habit?

Has this “habit” lifted me or led me downward?

“Habits are the shorthand of behavior.”
Julie Henderson


“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
John Dryden

Behind our home, down through the small canyon that curves around our neighborhood, there’s a distinct dirt path.  Before any of the homes were built, this pounded pathway of clay didn’t exist at all.  However, with time, this trail became visible from my back patio.  There’s no missing the very well-trodden pathway now, which goes from one mountain crest down into the valley and up the other side.

This rather wide trail is traveled daily by a large family of javelina, wild pig-like animals with bristle hair and large sharp teeth.  Snorting and stomping they go from house to house hunting for morsels of food and grain or worse yet, potted plants which they devour.

Even with repeated warnings that these destructive creatures carry rabies and are not friendly if provoked in any minor way, there are homeowners around us who continue to feed these rascals and this is why the trail is distinguishable.  It’s because these animals have developed traveling habits based on when they know food will be put out for them. Very early in the morning or after dark, they make their way through the neighborhood, hunting for food.

Guess what?  You and I are a lot like javelinas – especially when it comes to developing habits.  Often, we even get into ruts in groups like javelinas, plodding along with everyone else to the trough where we’re fed what tastes good, looks good and feels good.  Not wanting to buck the trends, we travel along a path that becomes easy to discern for many others have smoothed the way before us.  Before you know it, our first step into unknown and untraveled territory becomes a habitual path of least resistance.  We walk where it’s easy and fun – where it makes us feel good.  As an unknown author observed, “A bad habit is like a comfortable bed – easy to get into but hard to get out of.”

To better help us understand Samson’s life and his attraction to certain women, I began today’s devotional with three different texts. Test #1 tells about Samson’s very first visit down to Philistine territory.  As we learned, at least Samson married this girl, even though she was not his parent’s nor God’s choice for a mate. The next time Samson went to get a woman, he didn’t bother with marriage – he chose to “use” the services of a prostitute. Finally, we find the words of John Climacus played out in living color: “Just as iron, even without willing it, is drawn by a magnet, so is a slave to bad habits dragged about by them.”  This is exactly what happened to Samson.  He had been called by God as a Nazirite and was specifically told to stay away from “strong drink” and from cutting his hair.  God even went so far as to forbid any contact with grapes – the skin, seeds or juice, which as we found out, were a symbol of the very place where Delilah, girl #3, lived – in the Valley of Sorek – the Valley of the Vine.

Drawn like a magnet by bad habits which had been indulged as well as cultivated, Samson finally found himself shackled by chains he could not release.  As the author Samuel Johnson astutely penned. “Habits are chains that are too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”  Sadly, miss Timnah was the small habit that with time was Samson’s first step downhill on the pathway of “javelina habits” where we forage for what is pleasant to the taste, alluring to the eye, and invigorating to the senses.

Unfortunately for Samson, his wife in Timnah paid a price with her life for getting involved with one whose behavior was outside heaven’s path.  And the harlot in Gaza ended up being used by the man God had called to be a Deliverer.  However, by the time Samson’s habits were so engrained, that like an overpowering magnet, he was drawn down to the Valley of Sorek, the Philistines had his number and understood his behavior and they knew when and what to feed the habits that drove Samson to take risks that eventually led to his crushing defeat.

Thomas à Kempis wrote these words of great spiritual advice.  “If you do not shun small defects, bit by bit you will fall into greater ones.”  Interestingly enough, one thing I’ve learned from the javelinas that roam around my house is that if I don’t feed them, they will leave.  From the life of Samson, may we learn that what we choose to feed will stay with us and if it is a bad habit it will eventually bring about our destruction.

“Small habits well pursued betimes, may reach the dignity of crimes.”
Hannah More


“The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.”

William Cowper

“Be Thou my Guardian and my Guide,
And hear me when I call;
Let not my slippery footsteps slide,
And hold me lest I fall.

And if I tempted am to sin,
And outward things are strong,
Do Thou, O Lord, keep watch within,
And save my soul from wrong.”

Isaac Williams

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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