Saturday, February 13, 2010

Interim Times

“The story of David starts in the middle of another story. All stories do. We never get a clean start in this business of life,” says Eugene Peterson, author of “Leap Over a Wall ~ Reflections on the Life of David.”

Isn’t it true? When we arrive on earth, we enter the story of our parents’ lives, no matter how settled or chaotic those might be. We first encounter David’s name after he is anointed as the next king of Israel. Israel’s current king is Saul, so David’s anointing must have been an obscure event or discounted by any witnesses.

Even though the anointing takes place, at least a decade will pass before David officially becomes king, allowing the young David to develop a leader’s heart. I’ve especially thought about the word “anointing” this week—a word almost obscure except in religious connotations. According to Encarta World English Dictionary, “anoint” means to “bless someone with oil” or to “ordain somebody: to install somebody officially or ceremonially in a position or office.”

Some people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. Early on, David knew his destiny. Even before the bloom left his youth, David’s résumé included shepherding, lyre-playing (a stringed instrument), and slingshot expert, all used in the years leading up to his kingship.

Lyres were hand-held musical instruments, strummed with a plectrum, similar to a guitar pick, rather than the strings being plucked. David, skilled at a young age, was summoned when King Saul grew ill-tempered to play a soothing song for the king. This required courage. Lopping off heads, throwing javelins at guests—some restless kings were not that hospitable.

Before David’s coronation there was a time lapse of 10 years. His experiences through that time can give us clues about how to live through our waiting rooms. First, David didn’t dwell on his future kingship, but went back to his day-job of shepherding. Whether we are called to grand destinies or fifteen minutes of fame, the grunge work of life is still there.

For families, churches, and businesses to function well during the in-between times, someone needs to attend to the everyday activities of living. The lower echelon jobs keep us humble. Even a CEO can benefit. Grunge work puts dirt under our fingernails—it takes the swagger out of celebrity.

A second observation about David: his interim years allowed him one-on-one time with God. God’s handmade world and his Holy Spirit inspired David to write psalms about God that still breathe life into our days, “[G]reat is you love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies . . . let your joy be over all the earth” (108:4-5). During those pastoral times, he gained strength and led helpless ewes and lambs. When sheep and shepherd were physically threatened, David used weapons and hand-to-hand combat to slay predators—a lion and a bear.

Third, while waiting to become king, his trust in God grew. David faced a giant, cruel opposition from citizens and King Saul, but he did not forsake his integrity and seek power early or by force.

What happens when you are in life’s waiting room? When you imagine bigger and better things for your life? How do you cope when your grand expectations are a no-show? Some may fret and halt most efforts to move forward. Others keep hoping and keep preparing.

From David’s waiting room, I see the message to spend time wisely. Just as God ordained David’s anointing, he has anointed our stories. He knew the beginning, he knows our current story, God will write The End when we have finished our work. Wherever you are in your life, follow David’s lead—put to good use the interim times.

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