We all know the story of Daniel being pushed into the lion’s den. It’s often shown in illustrations for kids. I’m sure that in reality it was absolutely terrifying.
Daniel went into the lion’s den because of false accusations within a system that he had no choice but to work within. I keep seeing all these messages in the blogs and forums: “do XYZ and it shall be good.” The virtue that is often the conclusion of the story of Daniel is that the lion’s didn’t eat him.
The problem is that most of us are not Daniels. Most of us are Frodos. I am sure that I am not spoiling anyone if I talk of the Lord of the Rings story/movie. Frodo is basically a typical guy–he’s a middle class guy, a gentlehobbit as Tolkien would say, and he’s just enjoying reading books, smoking his pipe, farming a bit, chilling. He goes on this huge quest, but throughout, he never really knows what he’s doing, exactly where he’s going, or even what’s going on around him. He doesn’t even really succeed–where most of the other guys get to slay monsters, lead armies, do dangerous recons, discover weird secrets and so on, Frodo carries a glorified piece of jewelry around that he’s constantly tempted to use even though he’s told it is evil and will doom all life. But at the end he gives in anyway; the mission to destroy it only succeeds because of a guy who’s even more tempted than him and his buddy who turns out to be more resourceful and heroic.
So he goes home. To what though? How does he explain what he did, what he accomplished?
Well, he can’t. So he goes home, writes a journal. He’s never the same person again.
I think of the guys who are walking wounded. The cures, the offerings, they aren’t enough. Daniel goes into the lion’s den: he doesn’t go anticipating triumph; he goes because he was caught praying to God when he wasn’t supposed to. It’s tempting to go with what Daniel said about the angel protecting him, shutting the lions’ mouths, and say “that’s the Christian condition”. The problem is that it is not. Stephen the Apostle for example is martyred in spite of having been chosen, having been clearly acceptable in the sight of God, and having courageously offered witness of the Gospel to the Sanhedrin.
In both these stories, one biblical, one fictional, we have a guy just doing his job as best he can. He’s not trying to become a great hero, he’s not trying to humiliate anyone or do anything wicked; in fact if he had his preferences he probably wouldn’t even be there, but he has to be so he makes the best of it.
There are guys out there who I know lost children, lost wives, family, relationships and whatever mistakes they made did not deserve that. Sometimes the only peace we can give them is acknowledging that it has been hard, and to praise the strength they have endured with.