Bible, Teaching
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Is your problem a giant or an optical illusion?

Bodian Castle is one big optical illusion. Photo: alh1/Foter/CC -BY-ND

Is Bodiam Castle one big optical illusion? Photo: alh1/Foter/CC -BY-ND

[by Dean Smith] I love castles. One of my bucket list goals is to visit England and explore at least a couple ancient fortresses. However, there is one, Bodiam Castle, that I may take a pass on. Located in Kent, it is a popular castle and because of its huge moat very photogenic. You may have already seen pictures of it.

But there is something strange about this castle. It is not all that it seems.

Sir Edward Dalyngrigge was given permission to build the castle in 1385. He had been a faithful servant to King Richard II fighting for the English king in the Hundred Years War. It seems back then, like a car, you had to have a license or “crenellate” as it was called then to build a castle.

I guess Kings wanted to control who built castles because they could be used for you or against you.

When Dalyngrigge started construction he went all out. The castle with its massive, perfectly hewed walls and its huge drum towers on each corner was a picture of power in Southern England.

Sir Edward even went one step further and built Bodiam in a low basin of land surrounded by rolling hills. Aside from the smashing scenery, it allowed him to create a lake-sized moat to surround the castle using a natural spring in the area.

In fact, there were only two narrow wooden bridges that provided access to the castle’s two gates. The handful of invaders who could navigate the bridge at one time would be easily picked off from the archer slots in the drum towers or have burning oil poured down upon them from the battlements above.

But looks are deceiving. There is a debate going on whether Bodiam Castle should be considered a castle or a manor house.


When you get up close you find that Bodiam Castle is one big optical illusion. Once visitors are inside, they are shocked by how small it is, because from the approach it looks like an enormous, imposing fortress.

First, when Sir Edward was creating the windows, they were purposefully made smaller the higher up they were. This gave the impression that the walls were massive. In fact, at the top the archer windows are so narrow, it would have been almost impossible to shoot arrows through them.

The imposing drum columns guarding the four corners were slightly tapered giving them a towering appearance.

At the top of the castle walls, the battlements are so small, they would have been almost useless in fending off an attack.

And the huge moat was all part of this elaborate deception, because it kept any invaders far enough away from the castle allowing it to maintain its façade of invincibility.

The illusion worked because 600 years later the castle is still standing.

When Moses led Israel out of Egypt into the promised land, he ran into problems with an optical illusion. On the border of what would eventually be Israel, Moses sent in ten men to spy out the land. The Bible says eight came back with an evil report.

But look at what they said.

33 There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33 NASV)

Notice how they described the giants — we looked like grasshoppers in our own sight.

When I look at grasshoppers scurrying along the ground, I realize how easily I could squish them with my foot. The giants in the promised land weren’t that big and the Jews were not that small.

But the spies had turned these giants into monsters.

It was an optical illusion created by fear. Fear has a way of magnifying our problems making them bigger than they are.

Fear exaggerates. It changes men into grasshoppers, large men into monsters and manor houses into impenetrable fortresses.

Many times in the Bible, God tells His children to “fear not.”  God knew that if He did not deal with this emotion, His people could not move forward because they had created invincible barriers in their minds.

This is exactly what Moses tried to do after the spies gave their evil report. He tried to deal with the fear that created these monsters. He told Israel that God was with them and that the Lord had already dealt with these giants:

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.” (Numbers 14:8 NASV)

Though he failed to quell the fear in the camp, Moses understood it was the real enemy, not the giants.

Fear is an emotion and because of that it is under our control. Fear is a choice and we can counter it by choosing instead to believe God.

Faith destroys fear. It is our greatest weapon in knocking our giants down to size.

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