The leaves crackled under my feet. I was walking through the backyard today and couldn’t believe my eyes. It is only the first weekend of the fall and leaves were already beckoning to be raked. This was especially surprising given the hot summer we endured which seemed to linger farther into September than I can remember in recent years. The telltale signs of the coming autumn were there if I had paid a little more attention. The days are shortening as the sunset comes earlier each day and some of the mornings this past week had that cool tinge that lets you know the seasons are changing.
As a child, I loved the seasons. Growing up as a missionary kid in the West Indies, we had only two seasons – rainy and dry. Coming home to the USA every few years, I longed to see the leaves change color, to watch the flowers come out again and yes, even to experience the snow (as long as it did not last too long). There is something mysterious and sacred in changes that take place. We don’t know exactly what day or hour it will happen, but we know without fail that it will happen. While everything else around us may seem to change, this pattern remains the same.
This past week, I got to meet some of my favorite people again – Christian booksellers. We gathered together like one big family and shared our stories. As I listened I heard the sound of the seasons. Some folks are at the end of autumn looking at a bleak winter ahead, not knowing if they can make it to the spring one more time. Many are at the end of the summer, having experienced a drought of customers and wondering if they will have much to harvest this year. Some are in the midst of winter with storms buffeting them on every side and praying for relief. A handful are planting seeds, watering plants and watching the flowers bloom.
As we talked, I could not help but be reminded of Gideon who thought he was in the worst possible season of his life. He was so afraid of his enemies that when the angel of the Lord arrived, he was at the bottom of a wine-press threshing wheat so that the Midianites would not find him. Even when he realized that God was is on his side, he had doubts and put Him to the test. Then God does the unexpected, he used this fearful, doubting man to change the fate of Israel. Not only that, he does it in the most surprising way, winnowing down the number of men Gideon is allowed to use in the battle until only God could get the glory for the victory that that was won.
Much like Gideon, I and my family of Christian booksellers face some pretty fierce enemies. The forces aligned against us do look like giants, Amazons if you will. Our arch enemy, Satan, has convinced some of us that our time has passed, the culture is against us and we are no longer relevant. In many ways it is our Gideon moment. How will we respond? Just like the twelve spies that went into “the promised land”, we have a report to give. What will we say?
The irony of the Gideon story and the twelve spies as well is that they were not wrong about the enemy. In Gideon’s day, the Midianites had pillaged the people of Israel over and over again. No wonder he was fearful. The people that occupied the promised land were huge and had strong, well defended cities. What both Gideon and the ten spies (with the bad report) got wrong was their understanding of the God they served. He was so much bigger than their enemies and He was ready to do battle.
I don’t know what season we are in as Christian booksellers because the signs are confusing. What I do know is this, the same God who helped my grandfather see the possibility for expanding a literature ministry in the midst of World War II is the same God that I serve today. He is ready to do battle and I need to be prepared to worship and give Him the glory.