Monthly Archives: October 2013

Fight Club with David

One of my children struggles with depression and it is heart wrenching. It is heart wrenching to see a cloud of sadness envelop him more often than it should. It is heart wrenching when I hear him tell me that nearly every day is hard for him. And it was heart wrenching last night when I found a note on his door conveying heavy thoughts and emotions.

I sat on the stairs after I found that note and wept. For what felt like an eternity. I wept because it’s unfair that at such a young age he should have this impossible battle laid out before him. Not even a teenager and the deck already seems stacked against him. Most likely, he will fight against this his entire life.

I want to fight it for him. I would gladly shoulder it and free him of the weight, if only life worked that way. But sitting on the stairs, all I could do was cry out to God in anguish and desperation.  I bartered, I begged, I pleaded, I threatened.  Finally, when I was empty and dry, I quietly whispered, “I just can’t fight this. This demon is bigger than him and it is bigger than me.” Immediately, God whispered a response.  “But it is not bigger than Me.” 

Suddenly, like a flood, the dam broke and tears turned into rivers streaming down my face.  My head in my hands, I shook and heaved with a perplexing combination of fear and faith. Fear that this demon would never truly relent.  Faith that God would provide and protect.

In that moment, the familiar story of David and Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17, came to mind.  While I’ve read it, heard it and told it more times than I can count, last night it brought much needed revelation and comfort.  On a Tuesday night at 10:49, sweet, strong David came to my rescue and reminded me how to fight.

Lesson 1: Reduce your giant to what you know.

In 1 Samuel 17:36, trying to convince King Saul of his ability, David reminds the king that “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them…”

David had never killed a Philistine.  In fact, he had most likely never killed any man. But just because he hadn’t engaged this particular enemy before didn’t mean he wasn’t able. In a remarkable moment of clarity and wisdom, David was able to view his present battle through the lens of his past victories. He drew confidence for the impending conflict by likening the foe before him to the ones God had already helped him defeat.

We can do the same thing.  We should do the same thing.  While I have not battled childhood depression before, there is a long list of other enemies God has faithfully helped me engage and defeat.  Parental divorce, multiple miscarriages, countless moves, financial hardship, just to name a few.  And at the other end of every one of those struggles there is a glorious portrait of God’s provision and victory.  This enemy may be new, but my God is not.  He is the same God that won my last war.  He is the same God who delivered me time and time again.

Lesson 2: Remember the equation.

After receiving a nasty insult from Goliath, in verse 45, David responds.  “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel…”

I love this verse. It has such power, such promise, such perfection. While our enemies don’t come at us with swords, spears or javelins, they still come at us fast and furious. And although the vehicles and methods of attack are different, their inability to outperform God is the same. Everything we are fighting simply fails and falters in His presence.

“You come to me with…”  Fill in the blank. Death, divorce, addiction, depression, bankruptcy, and a thousand more enemies. They all lose power when they come against the name of the Lord. It doesn’t matter what the components are; the equation never changes. God’s power will always be greater than whatever we are facing. It’s simple, brilliant math every single time. Our foes are less than; our God is more than.

Lesson 3: Reach for the right weapon.

I have imagined countless times young David kneeling at the river choosing his stones. I have visualized the way the stones, in the right hands, triumphed against a giant. This truth is beautifully summed up in verse 50.

“So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.”

Rereading this verse, the second sentence seemed new and compelling in a way I hadn’t noticed before.  “There was no sword in the hand of David.” It’s as if the author wanted to be sure we didn’t miss that. He wanted to be certain that we understood that David’s only weapons against an inconceivable opponent were a sling and a handful of stones.

The truth in this is that we don’t need swords in our own hands.  We need stones in God’s hands. How often do we reach for a sword with our own strength when all that’s required for the job is a few rocks with God’s strength? We tend to believe that the size of the fight should determine the size of our arsenal.  A bigger enemy calls for a bigger sword.  When in fact, a bigger enemy calls for a bigger God. Graciously, they don’t get any bigger than our God.

David knew what was before him.  He knew its potential to destroy.  He also knew his God and used what he knew to become the hero in one of the greatest underdog stories of all time.

So bring your stones. Bring a few pebbles, for that matter. The weapon isn’t important.  Either is the enemy. The field of battle doesn’t matter nor what it looks like. What matters is the victor. What matters is that the battle is the Lord’s. It is His to fight and His to win. Our stories are not yet finished. My son’s story is not yet finished. Although today it may appear that there is so much against him, the glorious truth is that God is for him and therefore, victory is certain.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:31

Circles of Strength

Several years ago, a good friend and I set out to bake and decorate a three-tier wedding cake for a mutual friend. The baking went off without a hitch. The decorating, however, ushered in a few glitches, primarily when it came to the stacking of the layers. We put the bottom tier on the cake board, positioning it just so and then proceeded to set the second layer on top. Mission accomplished! Or so it would seem.

As we moved on to the third layer, we noticed the second tier was sinking ever so slightly into the base layer. Not to be deterred or discouraged, we continued. In fact, we were so confident in our ability that I actually flippantly asked my friend, “How much lower can it sink?” It wasn’t long before we had an answer. Much lower. Much, much lower.  It was now 1:00 in the morning the night before the ceremony and we had a sinking wedding cake on our hands.

As we surveyed the situation, we realized quickly that our confection creation needed some serious support. We even wondered if such a thing existed in the bakery supply industry. With little time for deliberation however, we sent my friend’s husband to the basement where he cut some dowels and jerry-rigged some platforms to hold up the cake layers. It worked. In a pinch.

A couple days later, I received a call from my baking co-conspirator. She informed me that she had been to the cake supply store and they did indeed make a product to stabilize and support multi-tiered cakes. The product was called “Circles of Strength”.  The irony of the name was not lost on us.

Fast-forward many years to last Monday. I ran into a new friend in the grocery store and we began chatting about school, and eventually about kids. Over the next few minutes, the friend revealed to me that both of her children were playing multiple sports and excelling at all of them. Her daughter had been personally contacted and recruited for a high-level team, while her son was making considerable strides in his athletic endeavors as well. As I listened to her legitimately proud diatribe on her children’s successes, I sank a bit. You see, we don’t produce stellar athletes in the Herring house. When it comes to sports performance we are smack dab in the middle of the average category. While our kids can kick a ball and swing a bat, there are certainly no phenoms in this household.

I’ll admit that hearing about other kids’ trophy worthy performances stings a bit. Okay, it stings a lot. It leaves me feeling less than. Furthermore, it finds me reaching for other levels of competition that I can retaliate with. As others boast about their son’s baseball championship, I access my own arsenal and retaliate with my son’s academic excellence.

But I wonder, when I mentioned Josh’s aptitude for math, did my friend sink a bit? I wonder, as we walked away from the conversation, if we both felt a little lower. If we were both wrestling with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

Romans 15:1-2

The Greek word Paul uses for “build up” is oikodome and literally refers to the base or support of a building, such as a house. Or perhaps a cake. While I realize that cake decorating was a nonexistent hobby in Paul’s time, I’m pretty sure that he was telling all of us to be Circles of Strength. Much like I needed Circles of Strength to support my sinking cake, as mothers we need Circles of Strength to support our sinking spirits. When our children are failing or struggling, we need Circles of Strength to rally around us. When our choices are difficult and our paths unclear, we need Circles of Strength to provide direction and vision. When we feel inadequate, we need Circles of Strength to remind us that we are all in this together.

What if all moms adopted this approach? What if we rallied together to become Circles of Strength? What if we met in grocery stores and preschools, at soccer games and school assemblies and had different conversations? What if instead of starting each interaction with “My child”, we asked about your child? What if after each bragging right, we were required to exercise vulnerability and disclose something not quite as glossy about our child or ourselves? What if, when asked how our kids are doing, we responded honestly and openly? And what if we looked for ways to rescue the ones who are sinking?

I want to be a Circle of Strength to the moms in my world. If you’re a mom who can’t make a cake to save her life, let me be a Circle of Strength and rave about the way you use your time to play games with your son. If you’re a mom whose kids don’t even know what a homerun is, allow me to be a Circle of Strength and celebrate your child’s perfect score on the Science test. If you’re a mom whose daughter didn’t make the cheerleading squad or school play, I will be delighted to be your Circle of Strength and marvel at that same daughter’s gentle spirit and kind heart. And if you’re a mom whose home looks more like a page from the Toys R’ Us catalog than a Better Homes and Garden spread, allow me the privilege of being your Circle of Strength and cheering you on in your unwavering commitment to your children.

As moms, we need to work together to encircle each other and celebrate the victories that really count. There are always opportunities to elevate ourselves, but those opportunities usually leave some spirits sinking on the sidelines. Instead, God calls us to build each other up.  He calls us to “bear with the failings of the weak.”  He calls us to support one another, to please one another, to love one another. He calls us to be Circles of Strength.