[31 Days resumes tomorrow]
Sometimes reading the Bible is a little like reading a newspaper article. We get the five W’s – the who, what, when, where and sometimes the why – but we often hear little more than the basic facts of the story.
Take the reading from yesterday – the story of David and Bathsheba. We learn that David stays in Jerusalem while his men go off to fight the Ammonites. He is enticed by the sight of a beautiful woman bathing on a rooftop, sleeps with that woman and gets her pregnant, and then tries to trick Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, into sleeping with his own wife so the pregnancy can be attributed to him. When Uriah refuses, we learn how David schemes to have Uriah killed in battle and then marries Bathsheba himself. Later, after the prophet Nathan rebukes David, we observe how David confesses his guilt to God, comforts Bathsheba after their child dies, and then gets her pregnant again with the child who will be born Solomon.
These are the facts, but I want to know more. I want to know what’s going through David’s head, not only during this debacle, but even more importantly, after it’s all over. The way this story reads, David simply picks up the pieces of his broken life and moves on, forgiven by God and never tempted by pride again. He gets the miracle cure. He learns his lesson just like that, in one try, and then takes his clean heart and rides off into the sunset.
I don’t buy it.
I’ve wrestled with the same temptation on and off for the past five years or so. Sometimes this temptation merely simmers in the background, sometimes I even wonder if I’ve nipped it in the bud for good. But when I least expect it, the temptation rears its ugly head again, sending me straight back to square one.
Like David, I am tempted by pride. I yearn to be important and well-known, a big-wig. I want to be in the “in-crowd,” included and respected. Not on the fringe, not over here in my own quiet little corner. In. The. Center.
Last week, this temptation roared out of hibernation, and once again, I succumbed. Badly.
Long story short, there’s a new Christian writers’ conference that’s got everyone abuzz, and I wanted to go. Initially I said no, which was the right decision. My family is my first priority, and because of that, I try to choose my travel obligations wisely. But then I heard my friends were going, and other writers I admire, and other people I respect, and suddenly, I felt left out. I was bitter and angry and a little bit panicky, a stream of anxious regret running through my head – I’m the only one not going, I’m the only one not there, I’m never going to make it as a writer if people don’t know me, and no one even notices that I’m not going because no one even notices I exist…
If that angst over feeling left out wasn’t enough, at the same time I realized I’d fallen prey to the same old sins, the same old temptation I’d been wrestling with on and off for five years. I’d fallen victim to pride, self-importance, envy and greed. Again.
And then, just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, I read about David. “Well that’s just great,” I thought to myself. “He gets a clean heart and never has to worry about temptation again. How nice for him.”
But that’s when I began to wonder if perhaps the Bible doesn’t give us the whole story down to every last detail. If David is anything like the rest of us – and he is, because he’s human – I suspect he wrestled with temptation more than once after his bad Bathsheba decision. I suspect pride and self-importance were an ongoing struggle for him. Temptation, in my experience, doesn’t simply disappear just because we repent and are forgiven. Temptation is an ongoing threat, sometimes a lifelong struggle, something some of us wrestle with again and again.
I suspect the day David penned the words, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” wasn’t the last time he spoke that prayer in his heart. Although the bible doesn’t tell us so for sure, I bet David, like the rest of us, returned to those same lines again and again.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you ever find yourself tempted by the same sins over and over again? How do you try to break the relentless cycle, and how do you forgive yourself if you fail?
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