As a chaplain in the Air National Guard, I often will ask airmen facing difficult situations, “Where does your spiritual strength come from?”
The question is designed to help them highlight their spiritual energy source. Their answer serves as a spiritual inventory list that helps them focus on their spiritual resources.
The answers I often get name a book from traditional religions such as the Bible or the Koran.
Others specify Jesus or Buddha, while still others give a generic response and simply say, “Prayer.”
Yet there are many folks, and I hope you’re not one of them, who cock their head like a dog hearing a high-pitched sound and admit they have no earthly idea what I’m talking about. To help them understand the heart of my question, I often share a story found in Judeo-Christian scriptures. And if you’ll forgive me for being a little more sermonic than usual, I’d like to share it with you here.
The story, an old Sunday school favorite, is of a longhaired muscle man who likely resembled a Venice Beach muscle-head more than he did a Bible character. His name was Samson, and when he hooked up with a dreaded Philistine looker named Delilah, they became the ultimate power couple.
With the subtlety of a bazooka, Delilah often pestered Samson to reveal what weakness he might have, but Samson was not giving up this secret. So, Delilah called in some Philistine bruisers to employ enhanced interrogation techniques.
When the thugs arrived, she woke Samson in a ruse sounding like a two-bit melodrama, “Samson, Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” (Hiss, boo, hiss.)
Then in a scene from “Batman,” (pow, biff, bang, sock, splat) Samson took them all down.
A similar scenario was repeated three times until Samson finally told Delilah the secret only his hairdresser would know for sure: His strength would leave him if his hair was cut.
The Philistines then descended on Samson, buzzed him, bound him and blinded him. Alas, all seemed lost for our hero.
But here’s the rub in the story. Samson didn’t really get his strength from his hair. I know that’s what Miss Myrtle taught you in Sunday school, but the truth is a little more complicated than that.
Samson was a part of a religious order that took a vow before God not to cut his hair, but he didn’t get his strength from his hair at all. He got his strength from the integrity that came from keeping his promises to God. When he lost that integrity, he lost the source of his real strength.
The story ends with God granting our hero a suicidal burst of energy just powerful enough for him to bring the house down on himself and his enemies. Not your typical heroic ending, but Samson died, in touch once again with the source of his real strength.
There’s an old saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The expression begs the question: Where do the tough get their spiritual energy to get going?
Samson’s story answers the question best by reminding us our personal strength to face life’s tests always will come from our integrity before our creator. I guess that’s why Psalm 121 reinforces the story so well when it says: “I look up to the mountains, but does my strength come from the mountains?
“No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains