Saturday, August 4, 2007

Stuff I've Been Reading/Thinking About

It's funny how you can be moving through your days and activities, while your mind seems to be churning along on its own accord. All sorts of things feed the thought process coming from here and there, and eventually make up a whole thought. A few days ago I got an email newsletter from a missionary friend that we support. It had some interesting news...things to think on and pray about, but also it had this verse. It seemed like she was claiming this verse in relation to something going on in her life, and it really struck me as a verse that spoke truth to me where I am right now. But I hate to just latch onto some lone little verse and claim it, without reading the story around it, so I looked it up and got caught up in several chapters. It was the story of David and Absalom, and it was a great verse that seemed to speak truth about who God is, although I questioned its application to the situation in the text. This is one of those stories in the Bible that just makes you think, this has got to be true, because who in their right mind would make this stuff up!? But I'll get to that.

Later on, I was reading a book called Velvet Elvis that my sister gave me a long time ago, and she keeps asking me if I've read it yet, because I think she wants to talk to me about what I thought about it. Well, I'm not all that far into the book yet, so I haven't got a fully formed opinion, but I did really chew on something he said near the beginning. It goes something like this. We believe that the Bible is alive, because we don't just believe that it happened, but that it is happening. Like the story of Adam and Eve and the fruit. It isn't just a story about something that happened in the past, but it is our story too. It happens to us, because we do and feel the same things. The story is very real, and human, and we can relate to it. Like taking control when we shouldn't, and totally screwing up, and then kicking ourselves for our stupidity, and having to live with the consequences of our bad choice. Sometimes for the rest of our lives.

Well, thinking about that took me back to the verse, and the story of David and Absalom, and I think I can see why these crazy stories made it in. The verse that grabbed me read like this:
"Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him."
2 Samuel 14:14b
If it is possible to say so about the man after God's own heart, and not be disrespectful, King David had the mother of all dysfunctional families. I mean really, the verse is given during a discourse trying to convince David of the "rightness" of letting his son Absalom come out of his self imposed banishment because he had killed his own brother. For raping their sister. And David agrees, on the condition that Absalom comes home, but he does not have to see him. So this goes OK for about two years, but Absalom decides he wants to see his Dad. And since he can't get an audience the conventional way, he sets fire to his influential neighbor's (aka the commander of David's armies) fields, just to get his attention and stress how serious he is about wanting to see dear old Dad. The predictable thing is that this spoiled child behavior gets him just what he wants, and David sees him and forgives him.

Now here's a shocker. This newly forgiven son, then goes and uses his freedom and position (and apparently his hair) to totally undermine his father the king, and begins amassing an army to try and overthrow him. It's not like he was rash and impulsive about it either. He took forty years to "steal the hearts" of the men of Israel, rise up and put the king, his father, on the run for his life. The story is long and has a lot of twists and turns, but eventually David prevails in an enormous and bloody battle, and Absalom is hung up in a tree by his glorious hair, and killed by David's army commander. (You know, the one with the burnt out fields.)

And here's another weird twist. You'd think after all the water under the bridge, David would be relieved to get the news, but instead he breaks down and begins wailing about how he wishes it had been him instead of his beloved son. The part I so feel as real, is the reaction of the commander, who basically tells him to snap out of it. He says something like, "I can't believe you are behaving like this. I think you'd be happy if all of us were dead, if only your precious bad boy son was still alive. Your people went into BATTLE for you, in case that escaped you, and if you don't get a grip, they will give you more trouble than Prince Fabio ever did in his whole life!"

And of course David did snap out of it enough to show appreciation for what the people had done, but he still grieved for his son Absalom. Now the thing I think is so alive about this story, is not just that it DID happen, but that it IS happening. Dysfunctional families abound in all times and places. Sometimes they are made by the bad choices of the family members, and sometimes they just are...the results of events out of our control. But children become damaged, and violent. And some parents confront the situation head on...and some of them succeed, and some fail. Some parents bury their heads in the sand, and they reap a sad harvest. But no matter how it goes down, it always seems to end with a parent weeping over their child. If it ends badly, they weep a lot. So much that the world looking on scratches its head and wonders why all the tears. Because all they see is the violence, and vanity, and manipulations. They think that they would have been relieved over the break with the child. They would have been happy over the deliverance from the misery this child has heaped onto this home. It is a horrible thing to be caught in the circle of grief, then relief, then guilt...then back to grief. You can never really fully plumb the depths of how you feel. No one will let you. You won't let yourself.

3 comments:

Mongoose said...

This was such a great post. Thank you so much for sharing the story and your thoughts.

leisa said...

Oh where is the gorgeous pic of you and your girls?

Mammy said...

I agree with Mongoose.

Thanks :)