Saturday, 15 November 2014

A Complicated Story

Today was a difficult day. Yes, again. I went to do a demo lesson at a private school I have been interested in working at for some time. I had an interview a couple of weeks ago and it went well. But I woke up feeling discouraged and crummy and tired. Then my multimedia presentation wouldn’t load on the computer. After the class, the school’s director told me he was really disappointed that I wasn’t more creative. I cried all the way home. There’s no one to talk it through with, and I am just so – so - tired of not being quite good enough. Everything is tangled together in my head, and I want to sort out which part is my fault and which part is God’s choice for me – but you can’t separate those things. It all runs together and mingles and the only answer is that God is good, and he will choose the way for me.
And now I sit here in the dim of my apartment – mine for another eleven days – and I wonder: what is faith, anyway? If I say I trust God, but my heart is full of fear and discouragement, is that faith? If I choose to believe in his goodness, even though I have neither power behind that belief, nor joy to confirm it, is it still faith? God knows my heart. He knows that I choose him, even when my whole heart roils with The Question. Yes, that one: Why?
Nevertheless, he is the One to whom I direct my questions. Isn’t that a kind of faith?
A few days ago I was reading 2 Samuel 16 and 17 – chapters full of loss and betrayal, and discouragement. Ziba, Mephibosheth’s steward, had come to David with donkeys and bread, raisins, figs, and wine – and news that his master, Jonathan’s son, had betrayed David. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t remember what happens next in the story. Mephibosheth? I kept asking in my mind. Surely Jonathan’s son could never betray David. Surely he must remember the mercy David had showed him for his father’s sake. Usually I know the endings of the Old Testament stories long before I get there. I’ve heard and read them all before. I kept going through my memory, trying to find something related to Mephibosheth being an ungrateful traitor, but it was blank. I was unexpectedly disturbed at such a picture. What a relief it was to read a little further on that it was Ziba who had lied. (David. You and I both believed him!) But then Shimei comes out, pelting David – the king! - with stones and cursing him, and when Abishai wants to cut off his head, David tells him to leave the man alone in case God is the one telling him to curse. After all, he reasons, Absalom, his own son, is trying to kill him.
David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. (2 Samuel 16:11)
And then, as if that were not enough, Hushai, David’s confidant, goes to Absalom and says, “Long live the king!”
Absalom said to Hushai, "So this is the love you show your friend? If he's your friend, why didn't you go with him?" (2 Samuel 16:17)
Here is where I cried. How can Hushai leave his friend? Why is David allowed to experience such abandonment? Again, with real relief I read about Hushai’s plan in the next chapter. He pretends to be against David, but his real purpose – and God’s – is to give Absalom bad military advice and maintain David’s right to rule. Phew, right? Wrong. God’s purpose is also to allow Absalom to die.
God allows Absalom to fight David. He allows Absalom to die. He allows Mephibosheth and Hushai to look like traitors. It’s a bit of a mess to understand, really. Absalom’s rebellion is partly David’s fault. He has been a lenient and careless father. Mephibosheth’s loyalty, however comes to him in response to his care for his friend Jonathan and for Jonathan’s son. David responds poorly to the Mephibosheth situation, but then he is human and broken and full of fatherly love at his son’s death. It seems he isn’t either a good guy or a bad guy.
But though the story twists and turns as it is told, God never lost control. He chose seeming and real betrayal for David again and again. He hurt David and rescued him. Nevertheless, the story was always in God’s own hand.
So is my story. I'm tired. I'm lonely. I don't know how much of this is my own fault, and how much is God's grace working in ways that are hard to understand. I don’t know what my future is or who my friends really are, but God does. I’m not sure what faith is, really, but regardless of what I feel, I am in God’s hand. He will untangle the threads and make them all tell his story.