“We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us! … The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. … We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.” [Numbers 13:31-33 (GW)]
I vividly remember one audition at summer theater camp. It was for the part of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Before trying out, I decided to size up my opposition—the other girls vying for the role. I sat there in the darkened theatre and started comparing myself with every girl who auditioned. Although one girl’s audition was outstanding, I still thought I had a good chance for Juliet until I heard people whispering about her. Apparently, she’d been the understudy for the role of Helen Keller in the Broadway production of The Miracle Worker. Sure that I could never win the lead against someone with her impressive resume, I lost all confidence and never auditioned. Someone else got the role and I never again had the opportunity to play Juliet.
I was like the Israelite scouts who were sent to spy out the Promised Land. Although they brought back fruit and spoke of the land’s fertility, they referred to the land’s inhabitants as giants and of themselves as mere grasshoppers. Once they’d seen their opponents, the scouts perceived the Canaanites as victorious predators and the Israelites as crushed prey. They lost the war before they’d even picked up a spear.
Standing at the border of a land described as flowing with milk and honey, the Israelites lost faith both in themselves and God; they refused to enter the land God had promised to them. Like me, those scouts failed to understand that theirs was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. God wasn’t going to give them another chance to enter the Promised Land. Afraid of the battle and the challenges ahead of them, the Israelites lost their blessing. It was forty more years before that opportunity came again, not to them, but to the next generation.
Although I’m not likely to battle giants in Canaan, there have been times, like that audition, when I’ve felt as small and ineffectual as a grasshopper. Would I have gotten that role if I’d auditioned? Maybe, maybe not, but I missed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find out. God-given opportunities are meant to be taken, not to be passed by or ignored, even when we have formidable opponents or intimidating challenges. We can picture ourselves as children of God, strong, resilient, and ready to step forward in faith or we can picture ourselves as grasshoppers, just waiting to be eaten by a bird or squashed under foot by giants.
The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity. [Leonard Revenhill]