Tuesday, May 21, 2013

i am david: an unlikely candidate


i am convinced that the stories we tell - the ones we read on our kindle fires and the ones we pay a monthly fee to watch on all our devices - are rarely merely for our entertainment.  of course there is entertainment value in most stories, but that is neither their only purpose, nor their greatest.  there's something else that stories do, and that is that they offer us a glimpse of the world - and us - from a particular point of view.  good stories find a way to show you a kind of mirror of yourself, how you would be if you made certain decisions.  i have, at various times of my life, seen myself in huck finn, atticus finch, the cowardly lion, frodo baggins, edmund pevensie, and many more, including david, that would-be king of israel.

yes, i believe the same is true of the bible.  when we read these stories, they are never first and foremost about being able to be translated into a two-paragraph, two-minute devotion.  they are, above all, stories, and as such they are about humans trying to figure this life thing out, and they are surprisingly good at showing us ourselves. 

david was a shepherd.  he was the youngest of his 7 brothers, so i assume he drew the short straw and had to spend his time tending to the family animals, making sure they didn't roam or get attacked or stolen.  it was pastoral; it was rich in aroma only, and it was about as far as one could get from being a part of national politics.  but if david could have known what was going on, he would have learned that king saul was a shell or a shadow of himself, and had become completely inept as a king.  samuel had been sent by God to find the one-who-would-be-king.  but only samuel knew that God had led him to the sons of jesse, david's father. 

when samuel arrived, he immediately laid eyes on eliab, the oldest of jesse's brood of sons, and the most likely candidate for king.  he was tall and stately, well-mannered, and he knew enough to at least act like a king.  "surely this is our new king," thought samuel.  but God had other ideas.  God had not chosen eliab. God said, "look, i know that eliab looks regal, but here's what i need you to know: i don't see the way you see.  you see only so deep - clothes and skin and facades, but i see inside, into the very essence of a person.  eliab is not the one." 

so, one by one, samuel looks at each of jesse's sons, in a kind of parade of hopeful kings, with hair spit-styled down, and hands folded properly, but none of them pass the "God-looks-at-the-heart test."  so, still in shock that eliab wasn't chosen, jesse finally remembers that he was one more son, who is out in the fields with the sheep, probably playing with that blasted slingshot again. 

king arthur had to remove an impossibly stuck sword from a stone, david just had to show up.  as soon as he samuel laid eyes on him, as dirty and ruddy and stinky as he must have been, samuel knew that God had chosen this boy.  a most unlikely candidate.  too young.  too small.  too simple.  too uncouth.  too rough-around-the-edges.  too unlearned.  too unambitious.  but the Scripture says that God's spirit came upon him in power from that day forward.  in this pentecost moment, the spirit of God descends upon this simple shepherd and says, "i am choosing you - i am calling you - to something you have not yet imagined, and i will give you everything you need to fulfill this calling." 

sound familiar?

it should.  because God is calling you, too.  and, let's be honest, you're an unlikely candidate.  you really aren't the right person for the job.  you don't have the experience.  you don't have the formal training.  you're too young or too old.  you're too busy (everyone is too busy).  you're too thin-skinned, or too distracted, or too racked by guilt.  God is calling you to follow more closely, to attend that Bible study, to help teach a sunday school class, to go on that missions trip, to knock on your neighbor's door, but you are willing yourself to be the last kid picked on the kickball team because you have yourself convinced that you are not (something) enough. 

and God laughs.  God laughs at your "not enoughs."  if God could turn the aromatic ruddy runt of a kid called david into the ruler of God's people, what can God do with you?  i realize that you are inadequate.  believe me, i do.  because i know myself and my own failings and squanderings and complete lack of trustworthyness.  and yet, God keeps believing in me, keeps calling me.  God keeps telling me that God looks deeper than my facades and masks.  God sees into our hearts, and the one who designed us and made us with wonder and delight says, "what i made is good, and i have something new for you to do." 

so, you unlikely one, what will you do?  will you say thank God for the compliment, and then return to the sheep messes in the field, essentially calling God a liar?  or will you dare to believe in what God is telling you, in this story and in a thousand others: that you are loved, that you are called, and that you are meant for more? 

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