Learning with King David
Wish you could live your life more consistently? Welcome to the club. In fact, I believe most of us long for a more balanced faith lifestyle, a more stable pattern of thinking, living and loving. We want to get "off" of the roller coaster existence of cultural Christianity.
Reading through the Bible is a regular pattern of mine. Reading in the Scriptures this morning, I was struck by that epic Psalm of David after his sin is confronted by Nathan the prophet (Psalm 51).
Usually when I read Psalm 51, I cringe a bit as I recall all of my past sins and failings in life; feeling the guilt all over again, the remorse, the pain of regret and lost opportunities, and there are many. But not today. Today I was drawn to a specific verse, familiar but with a new twist…
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
As David is reflecting, lamenting on his moral failure, he makes a point to note condition of his inner being, his secret heart as a direct link or source of his outward sin. It’s as if he has just become aware of the critical need for his heart and his mind to stay in sync. Sounds like much of the New Testament, from the writings of the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans to James speaking bluntly to the early church about doing what we don’t want to do, or living as double-minded and unstable believers.
In Psalm 51, we are allowed to sit in the front row and follow along as David suddenly is forced to accept the sobering reality of his double life. We are allowed to observe his deepest thoughts as he realizes how deep his sin really is... of the pain Davids feels as he has to admit to having a separated life, a fractured existence, a condition of dual-mindedness. Being one way inwardly and another outwardly, he see’s the source of his sin as more than impulse, but self-deceptive. David was surrounded with all of God’s promised blessings, prosperity and success. He sees through the shroud of his sin of half living, of modifying only his actions to match his public status, of trying to just please God with sacrifices and personal efforts, and the cost of ignoring the condition of his heart for so long….
Instead of continuing to grasp at proverbial straws, David determines to draw near to hear God. In doing so, he blesses us all with the valuable insight of the root of his sin. The deep well of truth contained in Ps 51:6 can bubble up and change everything for us. True life is not meant to be fragmented, not meant to be kept in different mental or emotional containers. We are meant to be “integrated” completely as a follower of Christ. Not twisted or compartmentalized into competing factions inside of us and glazed over with a shiny coat of religious determination to control our every action on the outside.
As my new friend and acclaimed author-priest and contemplative, Ian Morgan Cron says… “when we don’t allow ourselves to face our past, embrace our whole self, accept the entire truth of who we are – the good and the bad – the old and the new – the lost and the redeemed, we are no longer integrated, but “dis-integrated” as a person” (my paraphrase from a live discussion at the WindFarm Cafe / Vox Conversations on 9-02-11).
David’s words illustrate the point painfully clearly, BEWARE. Sudden and catastrophic sin happens when anyone continues to simply go through the religious motions, when we are stagnate, when we lie to ourselves, when we choose to deny our truest self and bury it under a cloth of pretense and self-sacrificing service for God. We re-visit the same path that King David walked on his way to compromise and tragic sin.
When we do the right things outwardly but inwardly we are constantly in conflict, unsure and erratic, we become unstable. Many of churched believers have learned to ”just” be disciplined in our faith, to do what is expected of us, to act out all of the right and expected motions as we silently wrestle within ourselves. It’s a tedious and exhausting way to live, but does it sound at all familiar?