A Slave Mentality
I wrote some weeks ago a post entitled “Broken Into Disbelief” https://marknealprince.com/2016/11/16/broken-into-disbelief/. My basic premise was in seeking to understand and thus attempting to explain why many find it so difficult to believe consistently due to a lifetime of a what I call a slave mentality–much as was the experience of the Israelites in transition to a proposed promise land the first batch of desert wanderers would never reach. I related to not only actual slavery, of which the Israelites were a part of for four hundred years, but also to the many other slaveries we either allow to come in by stealth and stay for far too long by our own choices and decisions, and by the slavery that we are caught up in by virtue of the hands we have been dealt upon our entrance into this thing called LIFE. My purpose was to communicate my understanding of the physical as well as the spiritual ramifications of a slave mentality, to which the New Testament reminds us continually is to be something we can learn from if we hold on to our belief (The message of the book of Hebrews). But admittedly, I reasoned that this is no easy task for those of us caught up in the tailwind of its subtle yet decisive grasp upon us. And I would like to pick up on those meditations again today for a brief moment after spending a good bit of time lingering around Numbers 13 and 14 this week.
In chapter 13 of the book of Numbers, we basically have a scene where in preparation for a later Joshua style take over of the pagan nations around them, that a group of Israelites (to include Caleb and Joshua) have been given charge to go in and spy out the land to survey whether or not they have what it takes to go in and “kick butt and take names”. Then, in a typical “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt” (Keith Green) Israelite fashion, the synopsis that comes back in essence is that the land is full of “milk and honey” and the fruit is luscious, but the people are really big and really mean. They then determine that if they go in, they’re going to have their butts handed to them, and they’ll surely have their children for lunch as well! From there the slave mentality erupts into a full-blown “We want to go back to Egypt” discourse that drowns out the lone voice of a young Caleb who surmises “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it”.
At this point, from some legitimate human fear, past slavery memorabilia, and yet downright coming apart at the seams, they are certain slavery has to be better and are opting for regime change all at once! As a result, Joshua and Caleb, having now rent their clothing, now in unison say some pretty profound words that I want to think about with you for the rest of our time together today. They say, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us: do not fear them”. And as the people digress even more, we then find a congregation (the majority- sarcasm intended) commencing to the advocation of stoning the only ones who’ve been paying attention to God’s clear voice, specific commands and miraculous actions thus far in their behalf.
My Name is Eeyore
Now let me first of all say that we as Americans really like this story. We are seriously into “kicking butt and taking names”, and then some. We thrive on victory, we don’t like to lose, and we are all about being positive; and of course the self-help business is bigger than it ever has been. But I am coming at this usual dilemma that I write about an awful lot from a different angle today, and as to what I believe that for me (and perhaps for you), is a word from the Lord as it relates to the continual struggle in my own life of striving ever so feverishly for this “Caleb spirit”, when over the years, through the school of hard knocks, I have adopted a very Eeyorean mentality. And I will have to say that this particular 100-Acre wood demon is a hard habit to break once you’ve been a slave to your circumstances for so long.
Now in case you think I’ve been watching a lot of Winnie the Pooh lately, I really have not. However lately, out of all of the obvious mental disorders of the cast of characters in the 100-acre wood, it is Eeyore that I mostly self-identify with. I mean let’s take a look at him. The guy is not going on tour with Tony Robbins as his wingman anytime soon, that’s for sure. After all, some of his known slave mentality-speak are such sayings as “No, but I sure do like this new tail” when asked by pooh if he’s happy. Or when Kanga noticed one of Eeyore’s frequent new tails, he retorts, “It’s an awful nice tail Kanga, much nicer than the rest of me”. And again in reference to the never-ending saga and experience of lost tails, he surmises, “Most likely lose it again, anyway”. And let’s be honest, he has a little ax to grind. After all, he’s made up of sawdust, constantly loses his tail (story of my lifeJ), and his house is made out of sticks barely big enough to hold his own…well tail, and is constantly being torn down causing him to have to rebuild again and again (the irony). And I’ll have to say, that if life deals you lemons and you’ve yet to conjure up any lemonade, Eeyore is an awfully good bunkmate with a stockpile of commiserate balm in his overnight bag for what ails you. But if we are not careful, his spirit can take up permanent residence in our hearts and minds which starts to cement the defining of a story for our lives that we wrongfully believe is as good as it will ever get.
My wife and I had a talk about this just the other day. As the poor soul who always has to listen to what I’m feeling and thinking, she indeed is my Ambassador of Quan (Jerry “Freakin” McGuire). And I opened up to her about my ongoing struggle that hit me like a ton of bricks about 8 ½ years ago at the beginning of my financial meltdown, but that dropped about two tons more on me in the aftermath of my 50th birthday celebration. It was like a tidal wave of constant reminders from my negligible financial portfolio, topsy-turvy career, feeble faith and evaluation of my measure as a man that I no longer “cut the mustard”, and like Eeyore, I keep building up houses made of sticks that are blown down at every attempt I make to finally just take one deep breath. And in many ways, It is has been more difficult than I ever imagined to look at the glass of my life as being half full: something that at least from my late 20’s on would not have been descriptive of me. It is indeed a hard monkey to get off your back; or if you will, a difficult slave mentality to rid oneself of, and that starts to cause us to want to pick up and stone all the Calebs in our path that beckon us to cast away our fear and trade it in for power, love and a sound mind. Instead, we are realists to a bloody fault, and the prospects and hopes of an eventual miracle from God guiding us in to take new lands has now gone on life support deep inside of us. And then before we even realize it, we can eventually be the ones who pull the final plug.
Now those who know me up close and personal know that I am and have been an avid reader for the last 25 years or so. In addition, my wife and I have devoted ourselves to devouring the scriptures and to the devotion of personal prayer every morning for at least that long before we start our day. In fact, I often joke with people that, if they think I’m a mess, just imagine me without that daily practiceJ. Thank God, you don’t have to witness that, but just pray for my wife. But my point is that even with that as a daily ritual in my life that has become as habitual and natural as brushing my teeth, life’s slavery can take a more substantial toil on us if we give up the hope that God can still move mountains in our lives. In fact, sometimes that hope is all that we have, and if we lose it, we can lose the tiny mustard seed that is simply biding its time forming in us a Caleb spirit that is in continual expectation of God showing up despite what has lingered for far too long in our rear view mirror.
So What Gives?
Is it about obedience? Oh sure, to a degree. This is of course how Saints are born. Those who after continual and persistent practice have learned to die and allow Jesus to live through them more often than not, and we remember their names. And then there is you and I. Those who like those blasted Corinthians are also called saints ironically, but whose halo is just a little crooked. Sometimes it’s our own bloody fault, and there are plenty of friends, foes and mirror reflections to remind us of just that. Other times, it is just LIFE showing up, and all we can really do is close our eyes and hang on the merry go round for dear life! And here’s the tricky part: many times when we lose our tail perhaps from our own making, we have a tendency to go back to the law and flagellate ourselves for missing the mark and not getting it right. And on the flip side, life and its uninvited and undeserved guests of pain and suffering sometimes bring us to our knees to the point that we become, shall we say…comfortably numb. With the former, we are pretty sure that God is not going to make much of a fuss about us, and postulate that His miracles are reserved for someone else who actually made the grade. And with the latter, all we see is giants in the land amongst us little grasshoppers, and we live in fear that there is nothing left but “gloom, despair and agony on me” (Hee-haw). And before we know it, we’ve disengaged from the walk of faith in hope of a promised land and opted instead for a fatalism of an eternal status quo that we are quite sure closes the book on our story.
And so, I guess you could say that these days I’m striving for that Caleb spirit in a world that for now has built my house made of feeble sticks that seem to buckle under the slightest breeze, and where at any moment, I’m bound to lose a tail or two. And by the way, my name is Eeyore. But I’ve been listening to the spirit of Caleb lately, and he’s starting to convince me that God still has some land for us. What do you say we go and get it?
 Numbers 13:30 ESV
 Numbers 14:7-9 ESV