Stories of Survival


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 51; 148, 1 Samuel 21:1-15, Acts 13:13-25, Mark 3:7-19a

If you joined David in the middle of his story, you might not realize he was the hero. He lies to a priest about being on a special mission from the king to get him to hand over the holy bread normally reserved for temple rituals. Yes he was hungry, but was sacrilege his only option? Then he tricks the priest into giving him the very sword he took when he slew Goliath. When he feels he is in danger of being exposed, he pretends to be mad by committing vandalism and drooling all over himself. Over the next few chapters he’ll employ deception several times, until eventually to save his own skin he commits himself to the service of the enemies of Israel.

Because we know his story from the beginning, we are sympathetic to his reasons for lying, stealing, and deceiving in order to survive.

Are our attitudes as generous towards people we actually know?

The vast majority of people we meet are in the middle of their stories. It’s not always a flattering chapter. Like David, they may be doing what they believe they need to do to get by. When the little lies work for David, he starts to tell bigger ones. People return to the survival mechanisms that get results, and if they have had difficult lives, what they’ve learned may seem wrong or unthinkable. Our choices make sense to us because we know our own stories and motivations, but to someone else they may seem terrible.

If we haven’t had therapy we probably aren’t aware of our own survival mechanisms, yet we all have them. Even when we are aware, overcoming the unhealthy, ill-advised, or sinful ones can be difficult to impossible. While human beings rank these behaviors in a hierarchy of evil, whatever separates us from God is sin.

Our choices make sense to us because we know our own stories and motivations. When other people’s choices don’t make sense, we don’t have to accept them but we have better options than condemning. We can love until better choices seem like valid options.

Additional Reading:
Read more about today’s passage from Mark in Rocks, Thunder, and Dough.

Comfort: The story of your life isn’t defined by its worst chapter.

Challenge: When people disappoint or hurt you, try to understand what might disappoint or hurt them.

Prayer: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)

Discussion: When have you been surprised to learn “the rest of the story?”

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