Artist Jacob Kurtzberg, later known as Jack Kirby, once told an interviewer that he was inspired to create the comic book character The Incredible Hulk after seeing a mother lift a car off her injured child.
Though I do not know that this was the event Kirby witnessed, the Associated Press reported a 1982 incident in Lawrenceville, Georgia, in which Angela Cavallo freed her teenage son, Tony, who was crushed when a Chevy Impala he had been working on fell off its jacks. She lifted the vehicle enough for neighbors to pull Tony to safety.
I’ve heard so many accounts of people driven to superhuman feats of strength that I knew this must be well researched. Sure enough, in 1961 the Journal of Applied Physiology published a study entitled “Some Factors Modifying the Expression of Human Strength.” Apparently, certain drugs, hypnosis and yelling are among the stimuli that can temporarily boost human muscular strength by over 30%.
Wouldn’t it be useful to discover a way in which those of us who prefer not to indulge in psychotropic drugs or undergo hypnosis can nonetheless boost our strength?
Let’s glance at several Biblical feats of strength:
And Aaron shall wave the Levites….
The Levites purified themselves…and Aaron waved them…
(Numbers 8:11 and 21)
Ancient Jewish wisdom makes a point of noting that Aaron actually lifted and waved a large number of Levites. If Aaron only waved half the 22,000 Levites mentioned in Numbers 3:31, he would have had to lift and wave one adult male approximately every five seconds during about twelve hours of daylight. In the face of this almost unbelievable feat of strength and endurance, you would have expected to see the waving portrayed as some sort of spiritual metaphor that would have made the entire account plausible. Yet it insists that Aaron, and only Aaron, was capable of this feat.
Similar discussions surround other feats of strength. Jacob singlehandedly rolled a massive stone off the mouth of a well, a stone that usually required many men to move it. (Genesis 29:8-10)
Ancient Jewish wisdom informs us that Jacob accomplished this task as easily as one removes a cork from a bottle.
Moses carried a heavy pair of stone tablets down steep Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 34:4)
In all these examples, oral transmission makes no attempt to dismiss the stories as metaphors. Instead, we are instructed to read them literally in order to gain a glimpse into God’s guide to life that can help us all in our own lives right now and right here.
What is the secret? It is focus! That’s right, just focus. As a child, did you ever play with a magnifying glass? Holding it just right would focus the sun’s rays into a blazingly bright spot that could melt plastic and burn wood.
Similarly, focusing all of our mental and physical energy can allow us to achieve astonishing results. Jacob was utterly focused on supplying Rachel’s need for water. Moses was utterly focused on bringing God’s Torah to the Israelites. And, yes, Aaron was utterly focused on worshipping God in exactly the way He instructed. Utter focus confers the gift of superhuman strength and endurance.
There are ways to train ourselves to focus. The martial arts expert’s blood-curdling yell as he strikes out is an example of one way. For most of us the goal is not smashing bricks or lifting up huge boulders but it is tackling the things we should do diligently and effectively. This can be done with focus.
Ancient Jewish wisdom regards the opposite of focus as laziness.
The field (work) of the lazy man is covered with thorns, dilapidated and overgrown.
In a world that dangles distractions, focusing on being able to focus is a necessary first step. Start by devoting a few minutes before the start of each workday to drawing on God’s limitless strength by studying His word. Keep yourself on track by making a physical mark on paper each time you interrupt what you are doing to pick up your phone, check e-mail or succumb to the siren call of technology. By doing that day after day, you will accustom yourself to using those amazing tools deliberately rather than as a tool of disruption or procrastination.