“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)
I don’t know if your childhood was as surreal as mine; growing up as a pastor’s kid seems to set you up for a parade of odd characters to march through your life. And many of your recollections of the tender years have a curious, unreal quality. As I reflected on Isaiah’s words above, my mind drifted to one such recollection.
As a tot in Children’s Church, I was pretty convinced that God was real and Jesus loved me, etc. and many of my fellow church-going chums felt the same. The folks in charge, however, seemed to never truly feel confident that we understood their message. They suspected, I think, that we children nodded our heads and clapped our hands and gave clever answers in order to get candy. This wasn’t completely untrue. For whatever reason, church seemed to have mountains of the sweet stuff, generously dished out for good behavior or bright answers.
I see now that these pastors and teachers wanted us to know more than simple answers to get candy. They were trying to connect us to the loving God of the universe; a God with a personal and profound plan for our little lives. And that is why they invited huge men to come to our Children’s Church to break things.
Now, I wasn’t a large boy, and so these men with necks like oak trees and biceps like beach balls seemed to me like something from a nightmare. They simply marched in, muscles bulging, matching singlets glistening, and immediately started smashing things. Wood planks, cinderblocks, phonebooks, hot-water bottles…anything was fair game for these purveyors of mayhem. And one of them would get on the microphone and plead with us children to pray for these men as they did things our mothers would never let us do. I mean to say, if I were to come home from school one day, greet the family, pet the dog, and then begin mashing stacks of bricks with my elbows…my mother would have destroyed me.
But this was power of an untamed sort. These fellows wreaking havoc displayed strength in an exciting and Samson-esque way. Surely this was how that brawny man-of-old mowed down all those miserable Philistines? Certainly David showed a similar liveliness when he smote Goliath? Even Esther, slip of a girl though she may have been, must have had an intensity that could have inflated a hot-water bottle till it exploded?
When I reflect on Isaiah 40:29-31, my mind earnestly tries to consider it’s encouragements in an enlightened, grown-up way. The furrowed brow of a tough decision, the pious resolution to do the right thing…of course these everyday tests require God’s strength. But my mind continuously drifts to those mighty men and their wanton skills. Is it possible that God had something a little more robust in mind when He inspired these immortal words? Certainly the thought of attacking the enemy of our souls with similar ferocity, his lies broken into small gritty fragments under the crushing blow of God’s Word, holds a sort of charm?