Saved from Myself

I can still taste the blood in my mouth.

I was twelve. My best friend and I were tossing a ball behind the church building during the annual Fall Festival. Another boy our age rounded the corner. He said something to me I didn’t like, I said something in return, and he punched me square in the lip. The blood flowed.

I would like to say my first impulse was to “turn the other cheek,” but I didn’t think about Jesus—or anything Jesus ever said—at all in that moment. I wanted blood, and not my own.

But just then, my best friend wrapped his arms around me and began whispering into my ear, “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.”

I didn’t.

That story came to mind as I read through 1 Sam 25 recently. The chapter tells such an odd story. David is in the wilderness with hundreds of bored, hungry, and somewhat unsavory soldiers when he decides to become the “protector” of Nabal’s sheep and shepherds. The only problem is that Nabal didn’t ask David to do that. Now, Nabal may be foolish (and that’s what his name means), but it turns out David is the one he really needs protection from. Because when Nabal doesn’t show his gratitude, David and his men head out for blood—Nabal’s.

So is David the president of the local Neighborhood Watch or the robber picking the lock on Nabal’s backdoor?

I can’t quite tell.

But, as Eugene Peterson points out, this is not David at his finest. Whereas he is “beautiful” elsewhere (16:12), and mercifully spares Saul only a chapter earlier (24:5-7), this insulted, vengeful, and violent David is all ugly.  He is “full of himself and empty of God.” [1]

But then there is Abigail. She is beautiful in every way David is not right now. She pleads for his mercy, reminding him that his job is to “fight the Lord’s battles,” (25:28) and not bother with petty insults like this one. In effect, she whispers into his ear, “Don’t.”

And he doesn’t.

In my favorite TV show, Suits, one of the characters confronts the other, and prevents him from doing something unthinkable. Afterward she tells him, “That’s what I like about you, Louis. You may not be self-aware, but if someone holds up a mirror, you are not afraid to look.”

Abigail stands with the mirror in hand as David approaches in his rampaging fury. The glimpse of his ugly self—in the mirror she holds—stays his hand.

Abigail saves David from himself. And David thanks God for it (25:32).

I struggle to remember all of the times someone has done the same for me. That is a pitiful admission. Because apparently God uses truly “beautiful” people from time to time, to hold up the mirror, show us our own ugliness, and save us from ourselves.

I’m sure I’ve been as ugly as David many times. I am sure I’ve overlooked the beauty of God’s intervention often when someone had the courage to tell me, “Don’t.” If only I fully realized how often I’ve needed to be saved from myself, perhaps I could grasp the wonder of the gospel more fully. Being saved from ourselves is what it is about, isn’t it?

The boy who punched me had a hard life. His dad had committed suicide a few years before our fight. His mom struggled to get by. His brothers and sister each had their issues. I’m not so naïve to think my punch would have knocked him out, but I do wonder now what further damage I might have done to his fragile soul had I bloodied his lip in return. More so I wonder, like David does in this story, what damage I might have done to myself if his blood had been on my hands?

I was saved from that. Saved from myself.

Apparently I have both my best friend and the good Lord to thank for that. I’ll never tell my friend he is “beautiful,” but I’ll admit that what he did was.

Thank you, Lord.

[1] Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall, 82.
Eric and his wife Lindsey have been at Highland Church in Memphis since 2012. You are likely to find them walking the local Greenline with their sons Noble, Foster, and dachshund Tucker. Eric cares deeply about preaching and social justice. He has a BA in Biblical Text and a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Eric is a board member for HopeWorks, an organization that provides hope and job training to the chronically unemployed and formerly incarcerated in Memphis.
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Author:  Publish Date: July 14, 2017

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CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

The CHARIS website is supported by Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA), the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The purpose of CHARIS at ACU is to seek God’s blessings for a healthy relationship between the Christian college/university – its faculty, staff, and students – and the church heritage that gives identity and meaning to such a school. This underlying concern for Christian colleges/universities, and their relationship to the churches, is reflected in the form and content of the CHARIS website.

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