Last year at this time, my friend Knuck and I set out to read the entire Bible together in 12 months. We were going to encourage each other to stay on track, keep a blog and maybe even someday write a book about the experience.
Well, I am currently reading 2nd Samuel.Yes, in one long year I made it through 10 of the 66 books of the Bible. According to my handy schedule, I should have reached this point last February.
But oh, how fitting a book to be failing with.
First and Second Samuel mostly tell the stories of David - how this little shepherd boy was chosen by God from all of his older brothers to succeed Saul, Israel's first king. How he single-handedly took down the giant Goliath, led the Israelite armies to victory, escaped the revengeful Saul and led the united nation of Israel. I've said before
that David is one of my favorite people in the Bible and his stories reminded me of why.
David screws up all of the time. Repeatedly and stupidly and blatantly. It seems as soon as he gets back on his feet, he falls again. But, I’m always surprised at how simply and quickly he bounces back from these falls. I guess it's because I’m the type of person to stay down and wallow, hide and perseverate on what I did wrong. Plans crumble and I bite the dust, hard and I wonder where in the world I went wrong along the way. Because isn't that the hardest thing? To entrust to God with my past, my activity in my own story. It’s hard to trust that there is a divine plan in failure, when that failure scrapes at my overachieving heart with such intensity.
We know that David wrote most of the Psalms - they function somewhat like his prayer diary. My Bible has notes on which Psalms line up with different events recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel. When David is being hunted like an animal by a jealous Saul, mourning the death of his sons, or repenting for his many failures, we can read his responses to God during those times.
I'm struck by these prayers.
So many of the Psalms start in despair, matching so many of my prayers. But the end is where my perfectionist heart is taken aback. They most often end in joy, self-assurance, self-reminder: this God is mysterious, and powerful, but He is GOOD.
Through and through.
David has a fierce awareness not only of his failures, but of God’s goodness. He trusts in it completely and trusts that it is a ferocious, bottomless love for His people. David believes that no failure or fall could ever stack up against this Love.
And maybe this is what David understands, what I need to study.
David knows who his God is, over and above his circumstances.
and he knows that he is loved.And maybe this is the reason for and lesson from pain, the seemingly pointless failures and falls. This is the asset in my losses. Maybe the Good Shepherd gives and takes away to remind me of where my open hands should be reaching. I don't have a kingdom at stake but there are idols I fall before every day. And maybe here, in the losses, the falls, the confusion He is saying:LOOK.
None of this defines you.
You are not your relationship. You are not your gifts. You are not your looks. You are not your health. You are not your job.
You are Beloved and you are Mine. And on that your identity shall rest.
When I wrap my hands around things that could be taken from me: a job that I could lose, a relationship that I could screw up, then my life becomes a frantic scramble to hold tight to that thing. My priorities shift and arrange around that one thing. Because on some level I know it's broken and it's finite.
But what if I could try every day, like David, to wrap my hands, heart and identity around the one thing I know to be steadfast, pure and whole?
And when I failed every day, what if I just kept trying?
And what if my priorities and habits started to form around that quest?
Wouldn't that be better than building around something broken?And when hardship came, wouldn't I be in a better place to respond?
I know there are mild voices that will suggest 'you are your career' or 'you are a daughter' or 'you are a wife.' and I need to respond (wearily), "No, I am Beloved. Those things spring from the life in that truth."
And then there are the nastier voices, the fearful lies that will say, "you can't do this, you are scarred, you're not worthy, you're too broken." And to those voices I need to roar,
"NO! I AM BELOVED!"
And when seasons of doubt come and a sad and general stagnancy mourns, "you're alone in this" or "this is as far as you'll come", it needs to become as steady and automatic as my heartbeat:
I am Beloved.
Beloved.Beyond all of the crumbling, finite idols I throw myself before daily - the broken names and identities I trust in, the failures and the falls, there is a pure, good and unshakable voice that calls me Beloved. And that's what I need to chase. That's what will keep me close to God's heart, in every victory or defeat.
"For God alone, o my soul wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken." - Ps 62:5_________________________________________
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(I warned you that this was coming.)