Woke up feeling bruised and nostalgic, then my eyes fell on a pair of camo pants that I received as an exchange gift when I had the opportunity of working with some operators from the Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK). A reminder of who I used to be, what I wanted to be and who I have become and I thought it rather whimsical as I also remembered the Norwegian fairy tale of the three Billy goats Gruff. In times such as these, I grapple with the mystery of human life and the lonesome way it gets when you feel all by yourself and then you are confronted with several options but the choice of just one. You play it over and over in your head wondering at the possible outcomes and their relationship to where you are currently. Taking a swan dive of the cliff edge into the water below….
Four characters (3 billy goats – Gruff Sr, Gruff, Gruff Jr and a nasty troll), a stone bridge separating hunger and satisfaction and a fast-flowing river; a fairy tale with lots of ‘what ifs’. Now Billy goats are averse to water but the bridge offered them safety and oh boy, were they hungry but all that separated them from assuaging their hunger was the little stone bridge….and what lurked beneath it. But alas, there’s always more to life than meets the eyes and several versions of this tale plays in our lives. We must look beyond the stifling and overwhelming pressure of our immediate circumstances and search out that glimmer of hope. However the finest of roses must be cleverly taken from its bed of thorns. Trolls still exist and right from the Aesop tales, they have never capitulated to the many wishes that they would give up their odious nature and just for once be a friend.
We largely know that desperate times call for desperate measures because it was a well known fact that beneath that tiny bridge spanning the gap between a need and its solution, in this case hunger and abundance, lurked a troll who gobbled up everything that tried to cross that bridge. I’m pretty sure the word ‘bully’ resonates with the mention of the troll. As the hunger pangs grew in the bellies of the goats, they strategized and came up with a plan; a plan just as bold as it was daring. The youngest goat, Gruff Jr made its way, frightened to its core, across the bridge and true as was expected, out popped the troll threatening to gobble up the kid billy. ‘Oh dear troll, I’m but the youngest of 3 and judging by your size, I doubt if I would satisfy you however if you let me pass then my older brother who is bigger than me would come along and you can have your fill with him.’
With that, the troll’s greed was stoked and he let him pass. The same thing played out with the 2nd Billy Gruff who also pointed out the seemingly senseless point of gobbling him up when the largest Billy Gruff would more than satisfy the troll. So right as rain, two members of the Gruff family made it across unharmed. Oh how excited the troll was, he had waited this long and was going to get his hunger completely assuaged. Prancing back and forth he caught sight of Billy Gruff Sr and knew then that patience was truly a virtue regardless of who practices it. With nothing to lose, Billy Gruff Sr with just a hint of trepidation in his steps began the obviously terrifying walk across the bridge. As the troll hopped about in excitement, the Billy Gruff Sr picked up his steps into a canter and before the troll could interpret the situation, Gruff Sr lowered his head and rammed his horns with all his strength right into the thick hide of the troll. With a loud shriek of pain and an even louder splash, the troll was thrown off the bridge and safely all 3 were united and ate their fill of the luscious grass as the troll was swept away by the stream.
As I look at today’s circumstances, I’m forced not just to acknowledge the despair but also the fear that comes with despair. But like the Gruffs, I choose each day to put the fear aside and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel or the solution on the other side. In choosing to believe in myself, I realize that most times, we are thoroughly equipped to face whatever situation life throws at us. It’s just a question of fear or faith; what dominates our thoughts and actions. There will always be trolls, be they naysayers or haters, but what matters the most is we must choose faith over fear or remain petrified, unable to move. There’s no temptation that comes our way that catches God unaware, and that includes covid-19, the novelty of the virus is no different than the dystonia and myoclonus that is trying so hard to stupefy me but nonetheless God promises us a way out if only we can listen and be obedient.
Now I’m in no way diminishing the severity of our circumstances, I’m just saying there’s always a way to see the brightness of the sun – be it in the form of obeying public health guidelines, assisting others safely and just doing the simple things but more importantly realizing that there’s refuge, protection, provision and wisdom in the city of righteousness with God as its Sovereign Ruler. Two words – Trust and Obey, no vagueness or ambiguity in their definition. We have used them many times but now is the time to walk the talk, and therein lies the difference. Am I going to pile up more nights and shut out the light of day or endure each night whilst anticipating the joy that comes with the day because as long as there’s night then the day must come, regardless of whether it’s daylight saving or not?
It’s no fluke of nature or a decision by the constellation of stars that we are where we are and yes it’s a far cry from what we imagined but if we begin by being grateful that we aren’t what we used to be then that’s a good start. Let the rage be stoked until we do something positive, because by our actions, we inadvertently make the path less burdensome for those coming behind us. A merry heart is good medicine for the body but the joy of that simple phrase is that though our bodies be broken and held together by duct tape and soldering lead, our hearts cannot be reached unless we hand it over. We can rail at the circumstances all day but I bet that it achieves nothing so why devote energy to the things we have absolutely no control over, when we can achieve much more by attending to the little things we can change.
Lord, grant me the serenity to submit the things I cannot change to You, the strength to change what I can and the wisdom to tell the two apart!
עד שניפגש שוב, אני מתפלל שפרצופו יאיר עליך לטובה!