From Zero to Hero and Back

Bursting with pride, the conquering hero was on his way home. He fought back the twinge of regret that he did not have a son there waiting to relive–not that he didn’t love his daughter dearly.  A son, though, would better comprehend and appreciate his father’s valor and skill in mustering and maneuvering an army to victory.

But he would not dwell on that and diminish the joy he felt knowing in his daughter’s eyes he did not have to be a winning warrior to rate her respect and admiration. She looked up to him as her hero no matter what anyone else thought or did. Loving him unconditionally, she was not ashamed of him because he was illegitimate. That fact which drove his half-brothers to disinherit and chase him from his homeland did not make her think less of him. She never questioned his decision to survive by heading up a band of brigands. He knew she loved him neither more nor less when the tables suddenly turned and he got his just due.

The powers that be from his country–including his father’s other sons–showed up eating humble pie and left digesting him as a tough negotiator! That day they cared not an iota about his birth or any laws he might have broken while persona non grata. In dire straits they had sought him out for his acquired expertise in the art of war. Rightly so, they reconnoitered that recruiting him for their national commander was their only hope against the invasion forces. But he wasn’t about to kowtow and simply let bygones be bygones.

Here was an opportunity for him to go from zero to hero and beyond. Seizing it, he gave the groveling magistrates his terms:  If he routed the enemy, they would make him head of  his native country. Not only would he be their general during the war but also their chief ruler when that was successfully carried out.

He was spot-on with his assessment of the situation. They had no wiggle room. Being desperate, they would agree to anything and everything. No doubt about it, he knew how to bargain!

As the returning hero approached a bend in the road and his new house came into view, he had no inkling his promising world was about to turn upside down and inside out. With a smile caressing his lips, he was remembering that after his terms were accepted, his lovely daughter had thrown her arms around him and exclaimed, “Papa, I’m so happy for you!”

Now, he mused, he had the clout to arrange for her the best possible marriage. Who would refuse his daughter? But he would not consummate the deal until he was sure the man loved her as much as he did. He chuckled at the thought that in the not-too-distant future, he could be bouncing a grandson on his knee.

Just before he reached the front door, it flew open and out danced his exuberant daughter. As her lithe body swayed to the tambourine’s strikes, a pain the hero had never known stabbed his heart.

 When he realized who it was, he ripped his clothes, saying, “Ah, dearest daughter—I’m dirt. I’m despicable. My heart is torn to shreds. I made a vow to GOD and I can’t take it back!” (Judges 11:35 MSG).

What vow?

Jephthah made a vow before GOD: “If you give me a clear victory over the Ammonites, then I’ll give to GOD whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in one piece from among the Ammonites—I’ll offer it up in a sacrificial burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31 MSG).

Where did Jephthah get off thinking he could bargain with God Almighty? Offer Him a bribe? Suggest a trade? He and Yahweh were not peers.

Would to God Jephthah had had the mindset of his predecessor Joshua when he was about to go into battle!

 And then this, while Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?” He said, “Neither. I’m commander of God’s army. I’ve just arrived.” Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped. He asked, “What orders does my Master have for his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14 MSG).


Surprise Ego Strokes

“Okay, do you want a softcover or a hardback?” I asked, flattered the woman wanted to buy my book. But I wasn’t expecting the impact of her answer.

“A hardback! I want to keep it.”

Suddenly, my emotions soared higher than the happiness that another person was buying my book. This woman had stroked my ego beyond her awareness. To tell me she wanted my book was one thing. Desiring it in a hardback propelled the sale to another sphere. I had not yet written my blog post “Durable by Design“; so there was no way she knew of my enduring love relationship with the hardback. However, Someone did know, and that Someone had used this woman as a conduit to tell me I was not the only one who preferred a hardback and that I had not been wrong to pay for its inclusion in my self-publishing package.  I knew it and He knew it.

He stroked my ego again on a recent Sunday morning when I stepped out of the garage in a red suit and matching hat. Yes, I wear a hat to church even though I am the only one. I am not trying to make a statement other than I love hats. My mother did and my daughter does and my granddaughters do. So maybe it’s genetic. Regardless, let me miss a few Sundays without one and I’ll hear a church member say, “Judy, where is your hat?” or “Judy, I miss your hat.” Once a man asked my husband, “Is your wife wearing a hat today?” Hearing an affirmative answer, the man declared, “All is well with the world.”

My own world improved while standing in front of the garage that Sunday after I lightheartedly called to my neighbor, “You’re doing such a good job washing your car, when you finish, you can do ours.”

“Oh, Mrs. Simon,” he grinned, “you’re beautiful!”

His comment unintentionally stroked my ego on three ascending levels. First, a female inherently likes to hear she is beautiful. Second, the eyes of a man young enough to be my son assessed me as beautiful. Third, he gently salved a childhood wound from my dysfunctional father-daughter relationship.

Was that why I never heard him say I was pretty?

He often said it of my curly blond-headed sister. I was eleven years older and I wasn’t jealous, but I wanted to hear him say it of me too. Wasn’t it natural for fathers to think all their daughters were pretty?

I hated the mirror’s reflection when I was a teenager, and I avoided it as much as possible. Yes, I was thankful God had blessed my face with not a pimple. For my part I was doing the best I knew how with my straight, limp brown hair and the sample of Tangee lipstick.

And there were times when I thought the end product wasn’t any worse than what I saw on some of my peers. But no matter how hard I tried, I never heard the stamp of approval ‘pretty.’ (Before the Door Closes, pp. 53-54)

“Beautiful” is better than “pretty,” my heart responded to the neighbor’s compliment.  He and the book purchaser had unwittingly traversed hidden passages in my life’s labyrinth. Their spontaneity had stroked my ego, but they could never understand what it  had meant to my emotional well-being.

“You’ll never know what that means to me,” a fresh friend emailed. No, I wouldn’t. All I did was give her a couple of magazines and suggest she look them over as a place to submit her writing.

Haven’t you, too, had the mysterious moment of  “You’ll never know what that means to me,” whether your lips sent it or your ears received it? Did you, like me, feel the event was orchestrated by Someone outside yourself? Someone who knows our secrets and the needs they conjure? Someone who tenderly touches them?

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” was written by William Cowper, a contemporary of John Newton (composer of “Amazing Grace”). If anyone can identify the soloist, I would appreciate the information.