It’s not a simple question to ask which parts of ourselves we should hang on to and which parts we should leave behind. If we throw away the best parts of our core personality we risk becoming someone we hate, but if we hang on because “that’s just who I am,” we risk remaining jerks for the rest of our lives. I started thinking about this last week while reading from my Daily Chronological Bible, about a time when King David was nearly killed in a battle with the Philistines, and says, “Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.” (2 Samuel 21:17)
The story reminded me of the movie, Air Force One, in which Harrison Ford plays President James Marshal. In the movie, the president’s airplane was hijacked while he and his family were on board, following a controversial speech where he vowed never again to negotiate with terrorists. The Secret Service tried to rescue the President by shoving him into an escape pod, but when the pod was located and opened, it was empty. The President, a former marine and Medal of Honor winner, had sneaked out of the pod just before it dropped, in order to protect his wife and daughter.
Back in The Situation room in Washington D.C. they were furious that the President wasted his opportunity to escape. The Vice President said, “He’s taking a terrible chance with his life. He has no right to take chances with his life.”
She believed he had a responsibility to the nation as a whole that superseded his wishes as a husband and a father. It was his obligation as President and his duty to the American people to stay safe and survive.
The Vice President’s desire was similar to that of King David’s men when they told him it was his duty to stay safe. “You are the lamp of Israel and you will not be extinguished. You owe it to us and to your country to stay home.”
It’s not a simple question to ask which parts of ourselves we should hang on to and which parts we should leave behind. Both stories speak to the conflict between two of the primary needs in a man’s life. Men need a battle to fight and they need to be part of a larger story.
Both President Marshal and King David knew their place: their importance to their countries, to the future and wellbeing of their people, and to the message and mission that had carried them into leadership. Risking their life was a needless threat to their important roles in their big world stories, but to sit down and expect other men to risk death and injury on their behalf ran counter to their own personal need to be in the battle.
Unfortunately, King David followed his soldier’s advice and stayed home during the next season of war. The Bible says, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war … David remained in Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1, (which appears in the text before the other story, but probably took place later in time))
This is a prelude to the tragic story of David’s affair with Bathsheba, which resulted in the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, the death of their baby, and the near spiritual destruction of David.
I wonder if his adultery with Bathsheba was an attempt to fill the hole in his heart left when he stayed safe and stayed home. Did he exchange one real adventure with another pathetic one?
I’m not making excuses for David’s adultery and murder. I’m calling him out. He should have told his army he would go to battle anyway, even if dangerous, because he was called by God as a warrior king. But he caved. He took the safe way. He took the easy way. And both David and the nation paid a heavy price because of it.
We can force men out of the battle, but we lose more than we gain. To make a man remove all risk from his life is to carve away part of his heart, and we’ll end up with less of a man. We’ll lose much more than we know.
QUESTION: Are you staying so safe that you’ve lost important relationships, habits, dreams, or moral direction?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32