Dr. Charles Barrett
Written by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, and published by Random House in 1954, Horton Hears A Who begins with these words: On the 15th of May, in the Jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool, he was splashing… enjoying the jungle’s great joys… when Horton the elephant heard a small noise. For me, it was the evening of July 23rd and I was in a hotel pool, not splashing, but nonetheless enjoying a mini-vacation with my family when The Lord spoke to me about drowning in shallow water. Because it was no more than 4 feet deep, the message resonated with me even more. Further, as drowning can happen as a result of very little water entering a person’s lungs, children have drowned in bathtubs, and adults under the influence of drugs and alcohol have succumbed to drowning in puddles.
In Judges 13, we are introduced to more than a fictitious Biblical figure with presumably long, flowing locks of hair. Samson, although his strength was somewhat mythical, was a real man, living in a real world, facing real challenges. Like David, the anointed musician and faithful shepherd who despite wrestling a lion, a bear, and defeating a giant (I Samuel 17: 34-37; 49-50) could not resist a married woman (II Samuel 11: 2-4), Samson, despite killing a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15: 15-16), went to see a harlot (Judges 16: 1). Like some of us today, Samson and David were drowning in shallow water. As voyeurs into the life of Samson, Judges 16 (verses 6-20) highlights aspects of his personality that led to an unfortunate outcome. Let’s look closer…
LIVING ON THE EDGE
Samson might be described as an edge dweller--one who enjoyed the thrill of flirting with risky situations. Because of this, he played a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with Delilah. But as he placed himself in perilous predicaments, he did not recognize that he was on the verge of losing everything. And rather than guarding the gift that God gave him, Samson carelessly exploited it and lost. In other words, Samson played with fire and got burned. In Judges 16 we read that Samson toyed with Delilah about the secret to his strength, not once or twice, but four times (verses 7, 11, 13, and 17)!
In addition to being an edge dweller, Samson was overconfident. Because of his supernatural strength, did he think that he was too strong to fail? Even today, how many of us drown in shallow water because we underestimate the strength and weight of sin?
While standing in an area of the beach that was barely waist deep, I was overpowered, multiple times, by what my wife called an angry sea. Despite my intentions to simply enjoy the beauty and warmth of the water, my human strength was no match for the waves controlled by the All-Powerful Architect of Creation. And so it is with sin: that which is enticing to the eyes, in a moment, can literally knock us off of our feet, bring us to our knees, and carry us farther than we ever intended until we are drifting in an everlasting abyss. As Bishop Norman Lyons has appropriately said about sin, you either deal with it, or it will deal with you!
In the words of Pastor Curtis Thompson, Samson was also an abuser of grace. Said another way, he took advantage of the grace that was extended to him, which also inadvertently reinforced his risky behavior. Yes, grace ensures that we don’t experience what we deserve (punishment) but rather what we need (love and forgiveness). But some of us misinterpret the absence of punishment for sin as God’s approval of what we are doing. We even rationalize, if God didn’t punish me, then it must not be sin. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth, even as Paul cautions us against such errant thinking in Romans 6: 1-2. Like Samson, most people don’t intend to drown—especially in buckets or bathtubs. But the repeated playing with grace, coupled with living on the edge, and being overly confident in our own strength while underestimating the weight and persuasive power of sin, will most assuredly lead to our demise. Friends: drowning in shallow water is not the byproduct of colossal circumstances but the seemingly insignificant episodes that ultimately consume us, although they shouldn’t.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DROWN
Because the beginning of school is one of the most exciting times of the year, I would like to encourage young people with these words: don’t drown in shallow water! As a school psychologist, I’ve sat in too many meetings, with too many students who have allowed themselves to be overtaken by things that were well within their control. Having met with them to discuss how their parents and teachers can best support their success, and having access to numerous interventions and accommodations, some refuse the assistance! In fact, when asked if their assignments were too difficult, many said that they simply chose not to do their work. As a result, they drown in shallow water. Although it could have been avoided, they fail and jeopardize their future.
Young people, this year can be different. Don’t allow anything or anyone, especially your own choices, to cause you to drown in shallow water. Many of you have worked too hard to get to your final year in high school or college. And even if you’re not a senior, you have sacrificed too much to drown in shallow water. As Samson eventually ran out of time and could not withstand his attackers (Judges 16: 20-21), don’t let it be too late for you. Rather than procrastinating, do all that you can to get ahead and remain ahead throughout the school year.
As drowning begins with only a little bit of water, remember that problems arise when we slowly dig a hole for ourselves that eventually becomes too deep to escape.
Peace and Blessings.
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