Intimidation is a powerful thing. It is manipulative, overpowering, and irrational. It is the school-yard bully of the mind, throwing it's weight around and forcibly pushing your thoughts into unwanted places - though it is rarely the great threat it makes itself out to be. And the main goal of intimidation is to direct you away from your purpose, and to minimize the importance of the things you are called to do.
Some years ago I was on a mission trip in East St. Louis. Our main focus was what our base church called Super Church. We would set up in an empty lot with games and food, inviting all the kids in the area to join. To help put this into context, we were a group of white kids from a small southern town running around the projects of St. Louis, knocking on doors and asking if their kids wanted to come play and eat hot dogs and snow cones.
The church we worked with was well-known and liked in this community. However this did not detract from the bullet holes in the walls, the cars driving by us a little too slowly, or the long stares we would get. It's easy to understand the intimidating feelings that would creep into our minds. I brushed those thoughts aside and kept going. I was a brave young woman marching in the Lord's army, after all. And since I was such a brave young woman marching in the Lord's army, the bully of intimidation chose to hide behind the most frightful enemy in the projects of East St. Louis. While I geared up for the day, I was unaware I would be facing a giant.
My pastor approached me.
"I think you would be really good at being the story teller," he said. I beamed. The story teller was essentially the person that provided the lesson to all the kids. Today's story? David and Goliath.
We gathered a group of kids, played, and then sat on the grass to sing songs before the lesson. I looked about and decided to sit next to a little girl with head full of tiny braids, each carefully held with cheerful beads and clips. I sat down, expecting a Hallmark card-worthy experience.
The little girl, no more than 6 years old leaned back and gave me the most disgusted death-stare I had ever seen. Her eyes wide, brows furrowed, looking me up and down as if to say "Who told you that you can sit here?" The Giant had arrived.
I wondered why this kid hated me so much. Wondered what she was thinking. What she might say or do.
We all stood and played kid's dancing songs like Father Abraham. I would dance, force a smile and glance at The Little Giant. She stood still, not participating, and just stared me down. I continued dancing and singing with a smile while my thoughts raced. This girl is going to stab me.
Once the songs were sung, I was called up to tell everyone about David and Goliath. I spoke of how David only came to bring food to his brothers, but went up against Goliath the Giant. How he heard the giant calling out for his blood and David was unfazed. I expounded on how Goliath thought this scrawny, crazy kid was standing alone, but David was standing by the God of Creation. I detailed how he chose to stand between the giant and a trembling army with a sling in one hand, a rock in the other, and the knowledge that his God was mighty. And I told how Goliath fell with one shot, to the amazement of his older, more burly brothers as they watched from the shadow of Goliath.
Once done, I stepped away from the platform and paused. Maybe I should sit somewhere else. I saw her sitting there, her dark, unblinking eyes peering from between the faces of much more smiley-faced children. But something tugged within me. I returned to her side and smiled at her. She glared back at me, and I sighed quietly.
The pastor recapped the lesson to the crowd, and we bowed our heads and prayed. Silently, I prayed for the little girl, hoping for even the slightest bit of understanding of why I was sitting there. After that quick prayer, I sat for a moment, intimidated by this little giant. This tiny Goliath that had me shaking in my armor.
I turned to her and asked, "What did you think about David?" The girl shrugged. I steadied myself and tried again, praying inside. "Is there anything that is scary like a giant to you? Something you would want to talk to God about?"
The little girl leaned forward, wrapped her arms around my neck, and then draped herself in my arms. She quietly told me that some people are looking for her brother, and described how they all had to sleep on the floor in case those people drive by shoot through the windows. We prayed. I told her to be brave - told her that God is not going to leave her or her family alone. We just sat there together, and I prayed. No longer for my own courage, but for hers. For her brother. For her family. For her faith, her safety, and for her spirit to not be broken by her surroundings. I prayed for her victory over the Giants casting shadows over her.
I held her in my arms and wondered. How could I have been so intimidated by such a sweet, wonderful little girl?
She was not the Giant, she was just in the shadow of one.
Until then, I had been seeing her in the shadow of her giants. The darkness hid her away, shrouded her in a tough, confused, and distrusting shade. And I was afraid, bullied by the giants that stomped through her world.
Our assignment rarely looks like our purpose. I didn't sign up to comfort kids dealing with gang violence or poverty - I was just there to sing Father Abraham. I had understood my assignment, but was unaware of my purpose until I battling giants armed with little more than a snow cone. David didn't leave home that day to fight, but to simply bring his brother's lunch. God's goal wasn't to bring a sandwich to the soldiers, it was to navigate His light into a shady situation.
If Christ is in us, our calling is to let His line shine out from us by praying, interacting with, and loving others. We are called to stand between people and their giants and let the Light shine. And when we do, the shadows of those giants are interrupted, and we see those people as God sees them. But I had to stand before those giants first. My faith had to be put in motion before my sight became clear.
Assignments are simple. Purpose call for faith. Purpose leads us against giants.
We discount our assignments because we are intimidated into not realizing their purpose.
"Oh I just hand out snacks at children's church."
"It's just a shoe-box with some kids toys."
"It's just a church bus."
"I made casserole I made for so-and-so that has been sick. It's not that important."
Your assignment seems so minimal, but if effects eternity. You stand between souls and their demise. You bring light to the darkness. Don't let the shadows of giants intimidate and bully you into thinking your assignment lacks purpose.