David and me

I was really moved by the sermon today at church.  (That’s Fellowship Church in Holden, Massachusetts if you care.)

To be honest, I didn’t expect to be.  The sermon that was begun today was “The Holy Trinity of Manhood.”  Pastor Marty is going to be focused on three issues that men have: women, sex, and power.  Those who know me well will attest to the fact that I am simply not very good at being a guy. 😉

God knows I have struggles.  But they aren’t steretotypically male struggles.  In fact, I’d probably benefit a bit by being a bit more like a stereotypical male.  And so, I didn’t expect to feel particularly connected to this topic… And truth be told, there were a few points that my wife and I smirked at each other, sharing the recognition that the things being said about the stereotypical male were much more true for her than for me.  (It’s a long standing half-joke between us, the idea that she’s more man than I’ll ever be.)

So perhaps part of why I was struck was because I wasn’t expecting to be.  And perhaps the reason I was struck was also because it had been a really hard morning, and I was really needing God’s presence in my life.

Marty shared the story of David and Bathsheeba.  (Did I get her name right?)  It was a story I new, but not one that I had much connection to.  The reader’s digest version:

David begins lusting after another man’s wife.  The man is fighting in his army.  He gets her pregnant.  He sets the man up to be killed on the front lines.  A prophet comes in with a parable.  He gets David to see that in the abstract, those who possess lots should not take from those who have nothing.  The prophet helps David apply this to himself.  David repents, deeply and thoroughly.

I guess Marty was a bit like that prophet.  I guess I was a bit like David.  Becuase the story had always been this abstract story with no traction in my life.  Marty’s focus, today, on the aspects of the story that do relate to me, were powerful.

I realized that my really tough morning was partially my fault.  I realized that other’s actions are not an excuse for my reactions.  I realized that every time we sin against others, we also sin against God. 

On a more geeky level, I had some other thoughts about David’s actual circumstances.  One of the things I’ve always thought about the story is that it’s a bit ridiculous.  How could David not get it?  How could that one little story change things so utterly? 

It occurred to me, though, today, that it was a slippery slope that David was on.  Leaving aside the questions of lust and sexuality, I am contemplating the idea that somebody might be a powerful king, and making decisions every day that lead to soldiers deaths.

To simply survive on a daily basis, it seems like a leader would have to dehumanize his soldiers a bit.  A commander who couldn’t distance himself from his soldier’s humanity, he’d be paralyzed by fear and utterly ineffective.

It’s probably not a very long journey from accepting that soldiers will die to using these deaths for personal gain.

And it’s significant that David had hundreds of wives.  It’s pretty easy for me to wrap my brain around a pretty simple truth: we’re made for monogomous relationships.

But if (God help me!) I had hundred of wives… It would do more than just cheapen the institution of marriage.  It would do more than just weaken my comitment.

It’s not a very long walk from “It’s appropriate for me to lust after all of my wives” to “It’s appropriate for me to lust after all women.”

I wonder what it was like when David realized he’d produced an heir.  I wonder if there is some aspect of political machinations in all this.

The idea that a pretender to the throne could be raised outside of his family must have been scary.  I wonder if David thinks, “This could be a threat to the children I’ve sired through my wives.  He won’t grow up with very good things to say about me, if I let the father live.  He’ll hate me if he grows up seperate from me.”

Once the dad is disposed of, David could have looked at himself like a hero.  It would not have been out of place, historically and contextually speaking, to simply kill the whole family.  He might have rationalized that he was making an “honest” women out of her, and inviting his “illigetimate” son into the fold.

When I see that David’s self-delusion was understandable, and when I focus on how heart-felt his repentance seems, I look at the story in a whole new way.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “David and me”

  1. You sell yourself short. i don’t believe what you say about yourself. i see in you a man much like David… a man in touch with emotion. it was this that made David a ‘man after God’s own heart’.
    you possess the perfect measure of ingredients to be the mighty man of God He has purposed in His heart for you to be. if you can not believe in yourself then believe in His ability to create you just as He needs you to be. ‘you are the workmanship of God’… and that is worth believing in. you my brother are a mighty man of God.

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  2. You know what i like about you Jeff?
    i like that in spite of all that you are and are not, you manage to yield to a proper understanding of what God says is really true about you.

    The fact that you’re under no illusions about your nature is key to being a man. The “man” that you descrided as being typical is a construct of culture and nature. The man that you were – though slightly out of sync with culture – had no more or less to do with God’s definition than any other kind of man. Though you and i settled in to profoundly different descriptions of “manly”, neither amounted to much.

    As difficult as it is for the world to divorce itself from its various concepts of manhood, we should never stop proclaiming the difference between what is a man and what is “manly”.

    Yes, i know you didn’t intend for a response to be focused on your ball-playing prowess. i wouldn’t want to diminish the focus of the story of David and Bathsheeba. But ultimately it is about having a proper perspective and expectation. David’s problems began when he wasn’t where God expected him to be: “The following spring, the time when Kings go to war…”

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  3. Thanks man.
    As expected, you’re insight is right-on.
    That’s a fascinating piece of the story I missed, the stuff about it being the time when Kings are expected to go to war.

    The other possible importance of that statement strikes me as harkening back to the Israeli knuckleheads deciding that they needed a king in the first place. God says, “You really want an Earthly king and all the heart ache that will come with it?” And a while later, scripture reminds the readers that by choosing an earthly king, Israel signed up for war-making season, along with the rest of it.

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