The next chapter in David’s life, after he was captured by Saul and sentenced to the palace, after he saved Israel from slavery by killing a giant with a slingshot, and long after he was anointed by Prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as king, he was put through the mill. The mill turns wheat berries into flour to make nourishing bread, the staff of life. The spirit-mill turns crisis into wisdom.
This anointed young shepherd, the youngest and shortest son of Jesse, of the poor little village Bethlehem, who asked for nothing but his lyre and his sheep learned quickly that being chosen by God can easily be confused with being cursed. Bad things happen to good people to make them better people.
This is why Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Our enemies purify us if we let them. Only a child of God, born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13) can love someone who is mean to him, who steals from him, or insults, or tries to kill him.
Asceticism, i.e. fasting and vigils, and other difficult self-imposed exercises allow us to discipline ourselves, in a desire to be purified of self-indulgence. Self-suppression opens the soul to God’s will. Practicing asceticism says, “I love you so much that I am happy to deny myself, my will for comfort, even health to yield myself to You my Lord.” Happy are the ascetics, martyrs and other saints, who are blessed by danger; their asceticism allowed them to face what others would see as evil with an eye focused on God, the all knowing, all loving Father.Humility. Peace.
Ask young Mary as she appeared to be a lose woman to her betrothed, when in truth she was an innocent virgin, or as she bobbed up and down rocky roads on a donkey in her ninth month of pregnancy, only to find no room at the inn, to give birth in a smelly barn. A manger may sound like a quaint word, but it isn’t quaint. Or the agony of witnessing her son dying on the shameful cross. An ordinary person would wonder how a loving God could allow her to endure the heart-wrenching hours of a slow public murder of her beloved holy boy, her only child.
Go back; ask Joseph in the ditch where his jealous brothers threw him to die, or in prison where his master’s wife sent him when he refused to lay with her. Ask him about the value of tragic circumstances endured with calming faith.
It wasn’t what happened to these people that meant anything at all, it was how they reacted to what happened to them. They were not being punished, they were being formed by God. Misery seared through layers of filth to expose the golden core.
Sweet son of Jesse’s wife, had to be sure that the King of Israel really and truly hated him and want to kill him. He couldn’t believe it, so over and over again he tested the waters. Over and over again Saul proved to be his enemy.
One day David was given an opportunity to show that he had no intention of hurting Saul.
Saul walked into a dark cave to relieve himself. David who had been hiding in there was surprised to see the king enter. David never considered harming the Lord’s anointed. Instead, he raised his knife and stealthily cut a corner of Saul’s cloak while he was grunting to empty his bowels. David was that close to the man who was hunting him. The doe nibbled the hem of the hunter and withdrew. Saul never noticed. David could easily have seized the moment to shock and kill his enemy. In fact he had to keep his small army from harming Saul.
After David stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak he was stricken to the heart. David even felt badly that he cut Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed to raise my hand against him. So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul.
After Saul got up and left the cave, David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, “My Lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of those who say, ‘David seeks to do you harm? This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave; and someone urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed. See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’
Saul stood dumbfounded. The contrast between himself and this boy startled him. He mumbled words of astonishment while weeping. But all David heard clearly was when Saul said, “Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.”
So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
David wasn’t trying to supplant Saul as king. God was. God didn’t try, He just did it, slowly and methodically. Saul couldn’t escape God’s judgment on him, and neither could David escape God’s plan for him.
The hatred from Saul, the threats on his life, in fact all the scenes of hide-and-seek David went through were simply a layer of frenetic activity over a smooth path to David’s forty year reign as King of Judah and all of Israel. It was background noise, car horns, airplanes, people shouting, sirens blaring during the symphony.
Saul could never have what he was grasping for because fear and greed and pride were the slow destruction of his own desires. Suicide. He couldn’t escape his own ugly soul. Saul became one of the walking dead.
To be truly Alive is to focus on the symphony, to use one’s inherent power as made in the image and likeness of God to demand of all the lower powers that make the world the chaotic place it is, that God’s Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is the path that leads, like the seed of Jack’s beanstalk, from deep within the rich soil of planet Earth furlongs up to the land of immortality.