THE HORROR! (The Way of Lying part 4)

Last night, I ran into an acquaintance. We talked about our Halloween costumes. I told him I’d be going as Clark Kent. I’d wear my Superman t-shirt and a white dress shirt and my Superman tie and some nerdy, horn-rimmed glasses and suspenders and…you get the idea. “So” said his son, very matter-of-factly “you’re gonna be Superman!”. What a kid. He saw right through my disguise. As children are wont to do.

Some people never take off their mask nor shed their disguise.

According to Martha Stout, author of the book, The Sociopath Next Door, 1 in 25 people–4% of the population–can do anything at all with no remorse. This is horrifying to me because as Christians, we profess to know the Truth. And if 1 out of every 25 people must necessarily lie in order to integrate with society, how does that reflect on the church as an influentially integral part of society? And how does that affect the other 96%? The innocent, honest people–Christian or non–who wouldn’t dream of doing anything to emotionally, physically or spiritually abuse anyone?

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

Sociopaths, by their very nature, wear a mask all the time. At home. At work. Everywhere. Dr. Stout draws a fine distinction between sociopath and psychopath. They are not synonymous. Whereas the psychopath is more outwardly focused on causing harm and pain, the sociopath doesn’t let on with easily discernible actions what’s truly going on in the void that is their soul. She goes on to describe the sociopathic individual. She says that they’re smart enough to know how to manipulate and emotionally control others. But it’s something deeper and more sinister (and aware) that keeps them from seeking psychiatric help. In other words, they know they need help but refuse to get it. Of course, secular psychology is powerless to resurrect someone’s dead conscience. She admits as much and essentially leaves it at that. She believes through her practice and observation over the years that these people are born without a conscience. And this is where God comes in, because her prognosis for these people is grim. Whatever neurological deformity afflicts the conscienceless individual is not beyond God’s healing power. Whether they don’t have one or through neglect and lifelong wrong decision making, as Paul says “having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2), God can and will forgive them and heal any breach. Only He could do such a thing. “For charity (love) shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

“He restoreth my soul.” (Psalm 23:3)

The truth is, nobody likes a liar. Let alone loves them. Whenever someone gets that gut feeling that they can’t trust the other person–for whatever reason–then they (should) shut themselves off from the untrustworthy individual. And this is good. But as Christians, we have an obligation before the Lord to forgive and pray for that person. They may be a lost cause, working feverishly to endear themselves to anyone they meet. But God has already accepted them and made it possible through Jesus for them to receive healing and wholeness for their soul. Can you imagine the tortured existence someone would have to endure (I can) if they had to continually present themselves as honest and forthright, knowing full well at their very core, they were as deceitful as the day is long? The sociopath, says Dr. Stout, doesn’t care for such things. God has mercy and compassion for these broken people in spite of the havoc they wreak on strangers and family members alike.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

One thing I feel needs to be emphasized through all of this is the importance of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit when interacting with people who are sociopathic. If you feel the person in question is trying to manipulate you, by all means, don’t let them. Turning the other cheek, as Jesus said in Luke’s gospel (6:29), doesn’t mean that you let yourself be stepped on and strip-mined without your knowledge. The Holy Spirit in you will let you know if someone can or cannot be trusted. “Wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove”.

Dr. Stout closes with a message of encouragement for the honest reader. She says to take heart in the knowledge that you, yourself, are honest and feeling. But as Christians, it doesn’t stop there. If you perceive something unspeakable about someone, then pray for them and hold them up before the Lord. Imagine yourself in their place. Intercede for them–but don’t let them in.

Happy Halloween, er, I mean All Saints Day.

Sitting On Empty (Fill ‘Er Up! part 1)

I ran out of gas this morning. How utterly irresponsible of me. I knew I was low yesterday on my way home. Why didn’t I get any last night? I was tired I guess. How can I make sure this never happens again? After all, this is the first time I’ve ever run out of gas. Miraculously, I had my bike in the back of the car. It made the 2 mile-long sojourn to the gas station and back a lot more enjoyable. And quicker. Where am I going with this? Well, nowhere without any gas. And please dispense with the trade-your-car-for-gas-money jokes. The analogy here is obvious. Because, let’s face it: as Jesus said, it is “given unto you (us) to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 13:11). In many sectors, the church is running on fumes. Or the needle’s sitting on empty. In my car, that’s nothing to be alarmed about though. Turns out the needle needs to go far down–maybe an eighth of an inch–below the empty line before it coughs and sputters to a stop. I know this now. And that’s good news. But spiritually, when things are this low, is our spiritual acuity even active at all? When Jesus told the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom and the subsequent commencement of the marriage feast, he used oil and lanterns as parallels for the Holy Spirit. And ourselves as His containment vessels. See what I did there? I moved from gas to oil. (When are we, as a country going to move from gas to something else? A debate for someone else.) Follow me here. When the five foolish virgins were found wanting, not knowing what it’d take to wait and not being willing, either, they lamented to the wise ones and asked to borrow of their oil. The five wise virgins, it says, responded thus: “Go to them that sell and buy for yourselves” (Matthew 25:9). A bold statement, no? What does it take to get the oil of the Holy Spirit? It costs something. And if we feel stagnant and torpid, I’d have to say that we’re at least sitting on empty.

Now, forgive me for going all over the place with my allusions but Psalm 104 (vs. 15) says that God will give us oil. “To make our face to shine”, it says. It’s ours if we’ll humble ourselves to ask. But first we’ll have to admit that we’re not getting anywhere. That takes guts. One way to jump start the process is to worship the Lord and be grateful. Proverbs 13:9 says “the light of the righteous rejoices”. Get a move on.

As an aside, on my way back from the gas station, the song “Red Barchetta” by Rush shuffled onto my iPod. It’s a narrative about a young boy living in the future, in a time when cars have been outlawed. The song opens with the boy on his way to his uncle’s farm to take an illegal joyride in an ancient Ferrari. A fantastic chase scene ensues. But what stood out to me was the impracticality and implausibility of keeping a car in your garage for “50-odd years”–full of gas. And oil for that matter. How ironic.

What shall I render? Part 2 Post-Nintendo

Nintendo has been around since the late 1800s. Back then, they made playing cards. They moved into the electronic gaming industry in the 1980s. I was a Nintendo loyalist until shortly after the second Zelda game was released for the N64 (Majora’s Mask) in 1999. My final, salient memories of that erstwhile system took place in the last level of Majora’s Mask. It was called the Stone Tower Temple and in it, you play through this oddly-yet well-designed labyrinthine series of outdoor rooms. Upon entering, you’re sure to notice the walkways and door frames set into the ceilings and upper walls. What the? After defeating the weak ninja-like boss, you receive the “light arrows” then proceed to return to the entrance and shoot one of your new arrows into a similarly colored switch and then…! It all makes sense now. The world (literally) turns upside down. And you have to fight your way again through the same area you just conquered but this time, it’s upside-down–a fitting metaphor for the coming upheaval. One false step and Link will fall into the sky.

When my brother Ian saw that, he freaked out and started crying. Then again, he was six. Bless his heart.

The second thing that stands head and shoulders above most of my good Nintendo memories came from a game called “Paper Mario”. I began to sense an inherent loneliness in a certain level. At the time, I couldn’t have put this into words but as we would play back through other games (James Bond: Goldeneye 007, for instance; I bought the system for that game), we felt it. A lifeless loneliness that permeated the level design. While this atmosphere is not endemic to all games, I think (personally) that it reflects on both the designers and the players. To each their own. I didn’t game much at home during the divorce. Too much misery there. But we’ll always have Zelda.

Powering up and moving on, I will share with you my post-Nintendo days.

I’ve since moved on to Xbox. It’s all Halo’s fault. I suppose I needed a broader (virtual) context with which to explore and lay down new imaginative roots. I remember my dad’s only word of warning with reference to Halo: “just make sure you don’t put it above God”. Simple enough.

How can I succinctly synopsize the plot of the Halo games? I suppose I’d have to begin with the Flood. The Flood is a terrifying, monstrously parasitic organism (the Zombie element) linked via a central-intelligence called the Gravemind: a giant, grotesque, multi-tentacled thing. Sentient but for one purpose–to infect and subsume and conquer. They threaten all life within the universe (*gasp!*). Any planet unfortunate enough to host the Flood would find itself taken over within days. The Forerunners knew this, so hundreds of thousands of years ago, they decided to create the Halos. Self-contained, planet-sized rings–with ecosystems all their own–stationed throughout the universe at strategic points. Oh, and they also double as planet-sized particle beam cannons. One blast from an activated Halo and you could wipe out a (Flood-infested) planet. Each Halo boasts a network of intricate and sophisticated, futuristic machinery connected by a warren of tunnels and concrete-grey control rooms all set beneath the tundra and desert above. Ah…Science fiction! The Forerunners apparently strip-mined moons and planets in order to build these megalithic, fully-habitable structures. Blasphemous! Must. Suspend. Disbelief. Fast-forward to present-day, to the year 2552. Humanity has colonized the stars and also discovered the rings. Well, sorry to say, so has “the Covenant” a group of seven different alien races, banded-together and hell-bent on the complete annihilation of humanity. And whoever controls the rings, wins. Simple as that, right? You fill the shoes of Spartan-117–John, by name. The “Master Chief”, he’s the last of the augmented super-soldiers created by Dr. Catherine Halsey to stem the tide of alien domination. And off we go, all across the universe. So much fun. Incredibly appealing to the adventurous, adolescent male psyche. We’ll always have Halo.

My brother and I, while very close, bonded even more through this game. It provided much needed distraction and respite through our parents’ divorce and will always hold a special place in our hearts. We discovered it around Christmastime 2004. The second Halo game had been released a month prior. Like Zelda, we were latecomers to the movement. We spent an inordinate amount of time at a small local coffee shop called (appropriately enough) “Creature Coffee” playing to our hearts’ content. Unlike many Nintendo games (not including Zelda) Halo never felt lonely. It didn’t matter if you were exploring the ruins of “Old Mombasa” in Kenya while on earth (you get to fully explore “New Mombasa” in the excellent pseudo-sequel Halo 3 ODST) or searching out the “sacred icon” to activate the ring on Delta Halo (spoiler alert: the Gravemind is resident deep within the bowels of Delta Halo) many light years away, there was always a better atmosphere than many other games we’d tried. And it’s something we routinely comment on with reference to new “Sandbox” (exploratory, open-world) games. There was something special about Halo. The original game is set for re-release in a month. Much like Ocarina of Time for Nintendo’s 3DS, Microsoft is revamping the graphics and publishing a tenth-anniversary edition just in time for Christmas. We’re stoked. The other thing about Halo that blows me away is the expansive atmosphere to the series. It’s as if the universe itself has come within your influence and no limit is imposed on your mobility. Within reason, of course. And with God, that is true in actuality. All Heaven will (eventually) be open to our exploration. My appetite, in no small way, has been whetted through the stories of Zelda and Halo. And as long as I don’t put them above God, as is true of any creative output and endeavor, I think it’s fine as is.

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:12-13, emphasis mine)

What shall I render?

Video games are a given with my generation. I got my NES when I was six or seven. I remember going to school in the weeks between the third of December–my birthday–and Christmas, mindless with giddiness that I had gotten one. Of course, I couldn’t use it as a status symbol because all my friends already had one. (Yes, even at that age, I was concerned about that kind of stuff) But at least we had something in common to talk about. It wasn’t long before the 8-bit sprites began infiltrating my dreams and weaving themselves into the fabric of my being. Super Mario took his place alongside Transformers and Ninja Turtles and Voltron (and others) as vanguards of my childhood.

Games may be fun (they are). At a certain level, they’re almost a necessity. They’re an art form all their own. Anymore, they’re akin to a cross between a many-hours-long interactive movie and a completely controllable lucid dream (is that a good thing). All this aside, I’m going to try and make the case for video games as good things. Because, and this should go without saying, even good things have a way of leading us from God to nowhere.

When I was a kid, I’d play Game-Boy while sitting in my dad’s high-backed red leather armchair. With brass rivets along the front of the arm rests, it’d creak with age each time I’d curl up into it. It was the perfect place to get lost in an imaginary quest. One that, outside of the three-by-three inch screen, had little or no bearing on the reality of life. Or did it? How many hours I’d spend yearning for that next level, that achievement, that rush of victory that signaled that I had what it took to meet a goal, however fleeting and ethereal? That’s a good thing right? I was learning the fine art of goal-setting and time management. Well, not necessarily time-management. Whenever I’d forget to do some chore or task because I was lost in my game, they were always excoriated as time-wasters. I wonder how often my dad thought twice about getting me these systems. Granted, he was a gamer as well, playing Berserk in the arcade before I even came along. Apparently, he was pretty good at it too. But it takes time to get good at something and as I ended up seriously beating (nearly) every game he bought me (not wasting his money) video games we’re a good investment. Do you follow my logic or is that too shallow and narrow? Consider this: how can it be that a little square screen, only slightly larger than a saltine cracker, hold my attention for hours on end? Yes there were things going on within the screen but the real adventure was being played out in my imagination. And that’s what expanded. My appetite and capacity for imaginative adventure. And when that’s hooked up to God (as was always my dad’s number-one priority), you’re unstoppable. Cultivate that however you can. I could make mention of the Medical profession and how they’re seeing a correlation between the hand-eye coordination needed for surgery and the same needed for gaming. It’s a good thing to them. And what about the Navy? According to my brother Ian (himself, a stellar gamer), the Navy is developing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) where they pit gamers of certain ages and abilities against each other to see wartime strategy in action. And presumably, to cull therefrom. There’s a running joke among MMORPGers, that, were North Korea ever to invade South Korea, South Korea would win the war hands down as that country is chock-full of young twenty-somethings who are already tactical geniuses from having played Starcraft to the hilt. They have huge tournaments and national champions over there.

Powering up and moving on. I got my Super Nintendo for my tenth birthday and my Nintendo 64 when I was fifteen. And it was in 1998 that Mario took a backseat to Link (both created by game-designer par excellence, Shigeru Miyamoto). Granted, the Legend of Zelda franchise was twenty years old when Ocarina of Time came out, but it had never once spoken to me. My friend Alex from my NES days was a Zelda fan but could never convince me to come aboard. It was only when Ian and I had exhausted all of the games-for-rent at a local grocery store that we decided to break down and try out Ocarina. And the rest is history. We went out the next day and with our dad’s blessing, bought our own copy. We had two copies in our house for about three days. This time it was real, this time it was serious. When our dad realized what an intricate game we were dealing with, he forbade me to use the player’s guide (I even got lectured for sneaking a peek in order to beat Phantom-Ganon, the boss of the Forest Temple). Maybe some more lessons could be learned? This was new to me as we had always used guides for previous games. Link (the main character) helped teach me puzzle-solving as the game is replete with dungeons that have no readily-discernible means of completion except by trial-and-error exploration. Sure the game seems dated by today’s standards but that hasn’t stopped it from not only being remade for Nintendo’s 3DS system, but also topping every single best-of chart in the industry. It’s a true classic that deserves every accolade it gets. Miyamoto was inspired to create Link and the series, based on his own adventures growing up in Japan and exploring the forest near his house. He said in an interview I read at the time that he wanted people to feel the atmosphere–the heat in Death Mountain for instance (with no music–just the hiss and pop of the magma, the air shimmers around you in that level; it feels hot). The forest temple with its crumbling, ivy-covered stone and cool walkways. The madness and claustrophobia of the Water Temple. The flow and the pace and the mechanics of the controls. Everything works in that game and if I seem overly enthusiastic about it, it’s because I am. My appetite and capacity for “imaginative adventure”, as I mentioned earlier, were sated and expanded–and exploded with this game. It was a watershed in my life. It effectively–as outrageous as this sounds–prepared me for the emotional overhaul I’d receive not four years later when my parents began their long slide toward divorce.

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12)

A shout-out to my friend Dylan! He’s alphabetically reviewing every single NES game ever released in America. The memories! You can find his blog and his work here.

Taking Point

All that jargon you hear about shooting for the moon and following your dreams and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps–far from being cliched and powerless–is actually true. But maybe not in the way it’s been presented to the masses.

I’ll explain.

Anytime someone looks at the world and begins to realize, not only that they’re just one among many, but also that the world is more vast than they can comprehend and take in at once, I think they take one of two roads or reactions. Granted, there’s an infinite number of life choices that people make and each one is colored by their inherent temperament (which can also change–more on that in the future), but each one of those choices leads to one outcome–or the other. Namely, the betterment of all those “other people” that you realized existed on the playground. Or obversely, and conversely, through neglect and apathy, their forsaking by you. Optimistic and believing and hopeful and pragmatic? Yes. Go for it. This plays out in the smallest ways and as Jesus says “he (or she) that is faithful in little is faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). Pessimistic, sullen, doubtful and ultimately cynical? God help you. Because this plays out in the smallest ways as well and affects on the same level as the opposite temperament. I have every reason to hate, hate certain people that are walking the earth today. And yet, how can I hate someone that Jesus Himself has forgiven? If He can forgive the people who nailed Him to the cross (Luke 23:34), citing their ignorance, how can I expel the raw energy of my life through a filter of hate and unforgiveness toward individual(s) who’ve done far less than martyr me? “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4)

Our response to the hardships of life dictates the formation of us as a person.

Rewinding to the past, to our formative years where we began to realize there were other people out there is the starting point for my ultimate point. Just because there is an innumerable (not really; about 7 billion) number of people out there doesn’t mean that you’re not the one to deal with the problem. You. I don’t see anyone else around here, I must be talkin’ to you. Any other realm of life in which we take the high road out of problems by saying “I’ll just let someone else deal with it”, is seen as cheap, lowbrow and detrimental. Then what about in God’s Kingdom?

I have a question for you: do you think you see the issues of the day because you’re simply perspicacious and perceptive enough to perceive it? It’s God who is letting you see it, much in the same way that He let Isaiah eavesdrop on His conversation. “Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). Isaiah raised his hand. I won’t mention any specific issues here because there are too many. The first one that bubbled up in your mind upon reading the opening sentence of this paragraph is the one I’m referring to. Did you know that you’re the one to deal with that before the Lord? Surely you’re familiar with the phrase “many are called but few are chosen”. That’s from the Bible–here’s the reference: Matthew 22:14. And here’s a simple illustration that might help demystify and shed the connotations of destiny and fate and all that pie-in-the-sky nonsense: imagine you were in an auditorium with a whole bunch of other people and the speaker (in this case God) called out to the audience for some volunteers, not mentioning what it was He needed them for. And you and, say, a tenth of the remaining crowd (how sad) raised their hands and were then called to come up to the podium… That’s it. Yes, God called you to do something. Raise your hand (or hands), it’s as simple as that. All the direction and drive and content you need is there–or will be once you operate on the things you already know.

This might sound like too simplified and simplistic a way of dealing with the seemingly insurmountable social problems of our day: poverty, abuse, greed, apathy and complacency. But I’m telling you, it’s wrong not to see yourself–with God’s help–being able to tackle it all yourself if need be. We limit God by not utilizing our imaginations and then applying our faith and our intelligence to see them become reality.

It starts with prayer.

David’s Bildungsroman part 4

So David makes an interesting statement in the sixteenth Psalm. He says in the first half of the eighth verse that he had “set God always before [his] face”. This, I think, is the ultimate lesson of life. Seeing God at the forefront of everything: all our actions, all our interactions, all our motions, all our emotions. Everything under the sun. I’d venture to say it’s a conscious decision that David made to see God “before his face”. And because we can’t see God with our eyeballs, he’s speaking metaphorically about, not only an ideological understanding of God’s thoughts as model for his own, but choosing to be like God after knowing Him. Paul says in Ephesians (5:1) to be “followers of God as dear children”. The connotation of “followers” from Greek is “imitators”. And this kind of imitation is not flattery. In order to be like God, you have to start by thinking like God. God saw this about David. Sure, He made David and gave him his unique gifts and talents, but if David had not responded to God, then God couldn’t have used him like He wanted.

The story of David, with all its ups and downs, plays out brilliantly and beautifully. One person among millions–rising to the pinnacle. I especially like that he was both warrior and poet. Musician and soldier. Sojourner and ruler. A life of seeming contradictions where grace and strength, art and power, were alloyed into one man’s temperament, and ultimately shaped the national identity of Israel. A little country among giants at the crossroads of civilization. I’d have to say that David was the first of the Philosopher-Kings. His son Solomon fits the description as well. Let’s back up to the seeds of such revolutionary realizations.

If you think that power and prestige were the ultimate goal of his life and psyche, consider this declaration of his (Psalm 27:4): “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.”

Take it or leave it. David had an intense thirst for God. An insatiable appetite for His love and grace and understanding. And so he was willing to wait. Unless God somehow told David–prior to Samuel showing up to anoint him king–that He was going to coronate him and call him to rule Israel, there was absolutely no way David could have known. Imagine the shock and surprise of being told that, in spite of your humble beginnings, you were called to make some outrageous Nobel-prizewinning discovery? Or make a work of art that would change national and international perception of art as a concept? Or in some way become an iconoclast who’s far more than merely a cult of personality? What would you do if you found out you were headed for the top? Would you “set God always before your face” as David did? Here’s the deal: this is what God wants for you, for me, for everyone. And the world is big enough for you to be the best there is at who you are. That’s one step above being the best there is at what you do. Being the absolute, superlative epitome of yourself is where God is aiming. We can’t be Jesus. But we can be as like Him as humanly possible. One thing I reflect on occasionally is the realization that, were I the only person God ever made, He would’ve asked Jesus to die for me to redeem me (as would inevitably be required) and Jesus would’ve joyfully complied. He would have obeyed His Father to reunite us–even if it were just us. Just you and God. This is one of the great secrets of life: God loves you. And His love is all-encompassing to the point that you can feel (Without pride, is that possible? Yes.) that God did all this for you.

David’s life is a perfect template for us. And also a roadmap for getting there. Jesus is walking with us and as we “set Him always before [our] face” He will show us that He is “at our right hand that we should not be moved” (That’s the second half of Psalm 16:8.). He’ll see to it that we get there.

David’s Bildungsroman part 3

The Psalms aren’t presented in chronological order. It makes me wonder how the canonizers determined the order in which we find them. The entire Bible (sixty-six books) for that matter is not presented in historical, chronological order either. I’ve heard that Psalm 118, being the center chapter in the Bible is sandwiched between the shortest (117) and the longest (119). Interesting. I haven’t measured it out myself but I have read elsewhere that that’s not even true. Psalm 131, they say is the central chapter. Anyways. As I haven’t measured it out for myself, I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I am going to touch on some of the high points of David’s Psalms. Whereas Bob Dylan has written over 600 songs, David only wrote about a hundred (that we have, recorded). You gotta know that, with the spiritual and symbolic nature of much of Dylan’s music, he had to have been inspired by David.

And that’s what the Psalms are. Hymns to God of praise and worship and thanksgiving and lamentation and distress. David covers the whole spectrum of human emotion through his music. The fact that we have it to draw upon for our own life is a miracle. A lifeline to the same God that David knew. One good thing about the placement of the book itself is that it’s right in the center of the Bible. It’s easy to find, just open up to the middle.

Here are a few Psalms as touchstones for the stages of life.

Psalm 23: David had to have written this while he was young and tending sheep. He sees God as his own shepherd, caring for him as he did his own sheep (or his father’s, whichever). This simple prayer–much like the Lord’s Prayer from the NT–expresses a life thoroughly steeped in God’s presence. From beginning to end. And beyond.

Psalm 19: I can see this one having come from the pasture (pasture-ized?) as well. David expresses the awe and wonder of God as Creator. I imagine a young boy, sitting back in the grass, the wind rustling his hair. Gazing up at the stars in the sky. Who knows how old he was when he wrote this. He’s at least aware of life’s inner workings enough to know of the importance of God’s word and the benefit of keeping it and trusting in Him through it. He also understands the fine points of analogy and allusion. What a kid!

See also Psalm 104–Pure poetry.

Psalm 25: One of my all-time favorites (along with Psalm 40). Many of his psalms were written in the caves and wilderness areas of Israel while he was on the run from a demented–and deposed–King Saul. God may have anointed David King of Israel as a child, but he didn’t end up taking the throne until later in life. Saul pursued David and his men through the desert and much of David’s adult character was forged through that time of trial. The harsh backdrop of sand and heat providing a fitting metaphor for the spiritual dryseason David went through on the inside. I’m reminded of a verse from Hebrews (5:8): “Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” That’s talking about Jesus but it could certainly refer to David as well. God called David and made him king though it wasn’t realized until many years and sorrows later. The joy of such a blessing was tempered, and in many ways substantiated, by the troubles he experienced. This cycle of wilderness exploration–to put it politely–is holy. This cycle is sacrosanct before God. If it’s good enough for Jesus and good enough for David–two men who know God far better than do I–then it’s good enough for me.

Psalm 37: David is getting older. He expresses as much in verse 25. He’s now old enough to know–with a certainty that only comes with age–that God will never “leave him or forsake him”, as he expressed in Psalm 27 (verse 9) and was answered in Hebrews (13:5-6).

God blessed David throughout his life–in spite of his mistakes–because he practiced what he preached and was willing to admit and atone for his mistakes. This is human perfection.

On another note, I suppose the reason we have both mistakes and successes recorded in the Bible is to learn from them. This is an obvious statement and fully in accord with the understanding that God “forgets” our sin. “Their sin and iniquity will I remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). “As far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) is how far God has removed our sin from us through Jesus. But in remembering sin, we’d do well to remember this fact too: unless the lessons are learned, history will repeat itself. The feeling of guilt and condemnation never comes from God–conviction, yes. But not shame or guilt devoid of hope.

Jesus made it possible for us to see our sins and shortcomings in light of His love and as such, complete amnesty is offered to anyone willing to come to Him. He’ll teach us. He says He will.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29).