Tag Archives: Crisis

Crisis Through Agur’s Eyes

“Under three things the earth trembles,
    under four it cannot bear up:
a servant who becomes king,
    a godless fool who gets plenty to eat,
a contemptible woman who gets married,
    and a servant who displaces her mistress.”

Proverbs 30:21-23 (NIV)

I don’t believe that I can truly appreciate just how blessed I am in this world, and in this time, compared with the general state of human existence throughout history. There are daily necessities for survival that I take completely for granted like fresh water out of a tap, secure shelter, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and an abundance of food. There is also sanitation, security, safety, and health. Then there’s communication (I get to see and talk to my grandson on the other side of the world whenever I desire), transportation (I can fly through the air anywhere in the world), medicine, and the rule of law make living today easier, safer, cleaner, healthier, and more entertaining than any age in human history this side of the Garden of Eden.

In the ancient Middle East, a very high value was placed on social order. I’m not sure I can completely appreciate why it was so important. I do understand, however, that everyday life for the sage Agur (who wrote today’s chapter of wise sayings) was infinitely more tenuous than for me. His most basic needs for human survival (water, food, shelter) were never givens. If he got a virus, an infection, or had a heart attack he would die. His life expectancy was short. If there was a famine, a drought, or a flood there was no government assistance or subsidies. Agur would starve, or risk traveling to another country to beg, or his tribe might attack another tribe to plunder what they could. Life for Agur was not safe, not secure, and not easy. So, social order gave him and people of his day a sense of peace and sanity to an otherwise unpredictable existence.

Agur then speaks of “earth trembling” (think uncertainty, confusion, insecurity, and being out of control) when four things happen. The four things he lists might seem silly to us today, but they represented the social order of Agur’s world turned upside-down. They were things that brought unease, insecurity, and meant the already tenuous order of life was going to be even more out-of-sorts.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but find myself thinking of the “trembling” our “earth” has experienced in recent weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The insanely easy and secure order life I enjoy has been briefly interrupted. I am inconvenienced. I will suffer a loss of income. But, as I meditated on what life must have been like for Agur, I imagined him traveling through time and arriving as a guest in my home. I imagine the wonder in his eyes as he sees how much room we have in our house (for only two people). I picture him walking around and seeing the food in my pantry (which could probably sustain us for weeks or months), our water faucet, the sanitary plumbing in my bathroom, the countless gadgets that entertain me, the library of books on our shelves, the safety of my nation and community, the modern apothecary and medical supplies in my medicine cabinet, the bed I sleep in, and the number of clothes in my drawer. I imagine him seeing all of this and taking it all in. Then I hear his incredulous scoff at my whining and complaints of the travails of quarantines, social distancing, and how inconvenienced I’ve been for a couple of weeks.

“Crisis” is a fascinating thing to experience. I find myself being continually reminded just how often Jesus told His followers not to be afraid, not to worry, and not to be anxious. And Jesus’ life was a lot more like Agur’s than mine. I find it ironic how easy it is to step into the fear trap, no matter how safe, secure, and well-provisioned I am.

Today, I want to keep seeing my life through Agur’s eyes.

I think the perspective will do me good.

<— Click on Solomon for an indexed list of previous chapter-a-day posts from this series from Proverbs!

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

The Forge of Leadership Mettle

source: flaxton forge
source: flaxton forge

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. 1 Samuel 30:6 (NIV)

I just finished directing a community theatre production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Being in charge of a production of any size is a test of a person’s leadership abilities. As a director you have teams of people all working under your leadership in a boilercooker schedule. The results of your  success or failure are up on stage, in front of the public for all to see. I have been involved in many productions over my lifetime and have directed a number of them. I know the feeling of having people so mad they want to stone you. I have also been on the other side of that coin. I have worked with many talented directors, and there have been a few that I have personally wanted to stone.

In today’s chapter we find David continuing in his own boilercooker of leadership development. For years now he has been an outlaw and outcast from his own country, living on the lam with a price on his head. He and his band of 600 fellow outlaws signed up as mercenary free agents with a neighboring country, but they were benched by the king and sent packing from the battle. This was not a small matter. Battle and plunder was how these men made their living and they just got laid off.

David’s approval rating with his men (who were rough individuals living on the fringe to begin with) had taken a serious hit. David’s men were already angry and frustrated with missing out on the battle and plunder of the Philistine battle, but now they return to their base camp to find their own homes burned to the ground. Their posessions had been plundered and their families taken captive. The situation for those six hundred men had gone from bad to worse. First they got laid off from their job and now they find their homes destroyed and everything they own taken from them, including their wives and children. Since the Garden of Eden our human nature responds to crisis by seeking out someone to blame for our troubles. Here are six hundred rough and tumble warriors as angry as stirred up hornets, and there sits David with a huge target on his back.

I believe history has taught us that great leaders are not made in times of peace and prosperity. Great leaders are forged in the heat of tragedy and crisis. God continues to hone and sharpen David’s leadership abilities between the hammer and anvil of dire and difficult circumstances. There is a lesson for all of us in this at every level of leadership whether you are parent of a child, captain of an intramural team, CEO of a corporation, director of a community theatre production, or President of the United States. We will find ourselves in times of crisis whether they be small or great. We will not always be popular with those under our leadership. We will find ourselves unjustly blamed for others’ pain or failure. These things are part and parcel of the mantel of leadership.

The true test of a leader’s mettle is how he or she responds to the challenge.

Ever More Connected. Never More Alone.

Earbud love 1
(Photo credit: Dano)

Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”
1 Samuel 20:4 (NIV)

When the shit hits the fan and your life falls apart at 2:00 in the morning, who are you going to call?

I have heard a variation of this question asked numerous times over the years. I believe it’s a more pertinent question than ever. The America I observe increasingly exists in a culture of personal isolation inside a mirage of community. We connect on-line with strangers thousands of miles away and do not know the names of our next door neighbors. We bow our heads towards our cell-phones and walk down the street in our electronic cocoon, insulated from the flesh and blood people we bump into. In the winter we stay inside our warm homes and make friends with television characters. In the summer we stay in the air conditioning and vicariously experience love and adventure on television.

Never have we been more connected. Never have we been more alone.

I begin to wonder if Thoreau was a prophet. When he talked about the masses leading lives of “quiet desperation” did he realize the silence came from everyone having ear buds stuffed in their ears? Our individual heads are filled with the noise of the millions of song, movie, television and video options that exist at our fingertips. The silence comes from the fact that most often people sitting next to each other in public aren’t talking to one another. In fact, they are barely aware of one another’s existence.

Perhaps I’m overstating it. I hope and pray that I am. I don’t hate technology. I embrace it. It’s just that I begin to fear that when the shit hits the fan at 2:00 in the morning, many people find that they have thousands of names on their contact lists and in their LinkedIn network, but in the moment of personal crisis they realize they have no one they can call to say “help me.”

I am blessed to have what I consider a relatively long list of men whom I would not hesitate to call at 2:00 a.m. and whom I know without a shadow of a doubt would respond to any request with Jonathan’s words to David: “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

What about you?

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 2

from familymwr via Flickr

“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
    “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”
Psalm 2:3 (NLT) 

I was chatting the other day with an avowed atheist. Raised as a child in the church, my friend was not taught to be an non-believer. At some point, for some reason, they chose out – and struck out on the path of unbelief. I find that fascinating and I look forward to more conversations and hearing more of my friend’s story.

I thought of my friend as I read today’s chapter and came to the verse above. Along the journey I’ve met many people who’ve chosen the path of unbelief. As they share their stories I’ve noticed that their decisions are often as much reaction as they are reason: anger against repressive parents, anger against injustices done by the religious, crisis of faith from a personal tragedy, and etc.

Every one has their story. Every one walks their own journey. Sometimes they choose a path I would not choose. And so, when we cross paths I try simply to walk along side, to listen, and to try and be the best friend I can be. Jesus told me never to judge (that’s His job, and His job alone), and always to love.