This morning, I was finishing out the book of I Samuel after an incredibly long break from doing any serious reading. No real excuses. Just life as a parent, teacher, and newlywed in the middle of a move. Things have been hectic...
But, back to the last chapter of I Samuel. The entire chapter is pretty dark, depressing, and blindingly sad. Saul, who was once a great and might king - also tall, dark, and handsome, according to the scriptures - ends his life as a sniveling coward on the field of a massively failed battle. The usual lesson here is more about David than Saul; after all, most of us just look at the two for contrast. Lately, though, I've felt a lot of sadness about lost potential, and I guess that's why I see Saul's story as one that is so very tragic.
I see a young man, uncomfortable in his own skin, hiding behind bags so that he doesn't get called out. I see a new king desperately insecure, and therefore trying to build himself up by bullying others and pressuring them under his authority. I see a man drivenn by jealousy and arrogance to homicidal craziness. It makes me sad. Mostly because I see a whole lot of Sauls surrounding me in the world.
You don't have to look past Facebook to see it. The trending stories on the right hand side of your screen will weekly have a few old rock stars or movie stars who have ended their lives in a blaze of drugs, alcohol, and wasted potential. There will be tributes to them, of course, lauding early achievements as everyone tries to forget the way it ended. The pictures will focus on a young man or woman, in their prime, before their individual demons did their damage. That fame will inspire another generation to follow down the wrong path, convinced that they are different and the bad stuff just won't happen to them.
You can see it in passive-aggressive posts that have no place on social media. Meanness and armchair judgment blasted from the safety of your phone, tablet, or computer is so much easier than compassion. So that's what most do. The spirit of Saul - the spirit of the insecure bully - can be seen in its shining glory, on display for all to see.
But we cannot forget that Saul isn't a hero. He is not remembered for any accomplishments, only for the meaner parts of his spirit and personality. He is defined by his hatred of those loyal to him, because he never could believe in himself. By the fact that his own son could see just what he was, and therefore he hated him too.
Saul's story breaks my heart, because it is a story of lost potential and failure to understand that humility is the key to success. In a world that is defined by self promotion, it is essential that we remember that Jesus called us to make ourselves servants. Servants wouldn't do promotional videos about how awesome they are. Sauls would.
I wish I could have talked to that young Saul hiding behind all the baggage. I wish I could have told him that he didn't have to compete with anyone because God had anointed him to be king. I wish that I could tell him that he didn't have to maintain his own position by scheming and dominance. He just needed to trust in God. He just needed to obey.
I wish his story had a different end, and I wish the same for every trending story on the side of my Facebook feed.
I Samuel 31
I 4Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.”