As you read this, I should be returning from a Honduras mission trip that was sponsored by my daughter’s church in Denver.
The trip was both rewarding and difficult. Much like the marathon I ran this month, our journey was filled with long periods of endurance and moments of amazement.
During my marathon and the mission trip, there were times I had to ask myself, “Where do I find spiritual energy to complete my goals?”
It’s the same question I often ask patients facing difficult illnesses. Some will answer with traditional references to established religions. Others will specify a more generic source and simply say, “meditation.”
It’s really the same question Delilah asked the strong man Samson in a favorite Sunday school story.
You may remember the story of this long-haired muscle man who likely looked more like a Venice Beach muscle-head than a Bible character. With all that charm, he hooked up with Delilah, a woman from the dreaded Philistines.
But the gal was a double agent, and she used the subtlety of a bazooka to drill Samson for the secret of his strength. Samson was wise to her and concocted some crazy answer, whereupon Delilah called her Philistine bruisers to take Samson down.
When the hit men arrived, she woke Samson with a line sounding like a two-bit melodrama, “Samson, Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” (Boo, hiss.) But it was the Philistines who were taken by surprise. Samson had lied to Delilah, kept his strength and served up some sucker punches. It was a scene, which likely inspired “Batman,” (pow, biff, splat). Samson took them all down.
This scenario was repeated three times until Samson finally told Delilah the secret only his hairdresser really knew for sure: His strength would leave him if his hair was cut.
The Philistines descended on Samson, buzzed him, bound and blinded him. All seemed lost for our hero.
But Samson didn’t really get his strength from his hair. The truth is a little more complicated than that.
Samson was part of a religious order that took a vow before God not to cut his hair. He didn’t get his strength from his hair. He got his strength from the integrity that came to him from keeping his promises. When he lost the integrity, he lost the source of his real strength.
The story ends with God restoring Samson’s strength, and in a suicidal burst of energy, he brought the house down on himself and his enemies. Not a typical hero ending, but Samson died, in touch once again with the source of his real strength.
I’ve passed through some difficult days these past few months. I’ve completed a thesis for a graduate degree, run a marathon, and now finished a mission trip to a secluded village. But in the end, I found my strength as Samson found it — in the integrity of my promises.
Perhaps that’s why I was able to sit in that mountainous Honduran village and hear the echo of Psalm 121. “I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from the mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.