David, Goliath and Vulnerability

Last night in bible study , we discussed chapter seven in Louie Giglio’s book Goliath Must Fall. Using 1 Samuel 17 as a launchpad, Giglio expertly calls out the giants in our lives. The application isn’t the standard Sunday/bible school one, that we should be like the heroic David rushing out to conquer our giants. Instead, Giglio makes the case that we are the scared soldiers sulking behind the lines; Jesus is the heroic figure who delivers us from our giants.

No matter how many times you’ve studied a bible narrative, there’s almost always another angle, a deeper truth to discover. The bible doesn’t change, but your understanding does. Saul and David had very different ways of dealing with David’s all-too-evident vulnerability.

You’re going to be amazed at this, but I do my own illustrations. Honestly, my fifth grader could have drawn much this better but she’s at school. Here’s what David’s vulnerability looked like on the battlefield…

David Goliath

A huge, well-armed giant versus a small, lightly-armed teenager. [If you’ll notice carefully, my illustration even includes five smooth stones.] In 1 Samuel 17:33, King Saul objected to David’s plan to take on Goliath: “You are not able to fight the Philistine; you’re only a boy.” Saul could only see David’s vulnerability. David Goliath V

That yellow V represents David’s relative weakness to face the giant. It’s how much David was outmatched by his enemy. Saul was a leader, a tactician, and a king. Plus he was tall. Saul felt the need to address David’s strategic disadvantage: “Saul clothed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.” Saul wanted to fill the gap with his own armor.

Saul’s armor was how Saul dealt with his own shortcomings. And of course Saul could let David use the armor, because Saul hadn’t been using the armor to fight Goliath himself. Saul probably didn’t think David had a chance of defeating Goliath, but he let David go anyway. In Saul’s mind, David was probably going to fail spectacularly, but at least he could look like a proper soldier.

Saul’s armor wasn’t made for David, and so David turned it down. That giant V represented a very real problem for David. He was relatively un-tall, untrained, and unarmed. Saul wanted to address that vulnerability with his own ill-fitting armor. But David chose to face his shortcomings through faith, a reliance upon the God who had already delivered him from difficult circumstances (bears and lions, verses 34-37).David V

But we’re not often like David. Here’s how Giglio puts it:

“We put on false armor all the time. We feel powerless in a broken world. We’re afraid, so we hide in addictions. We wrap ourselves in things that make us feel stronger or more protected than our normal selves. Instead of hiding in Saul’s armor, David relied confidently in the Lord.”

In an honest self-assessment, David knew that he was personally inadequate to face Goliath. That huge deficit left an equally large corresponding temptation to rely on something besides God (Saul’s armor). But through faith, David bravely responded to terrible circumstances that were totally beyond his control.

The greater the gap between our abilities and our problems, the greater our need for faith… or the greater the vacuum to be filled by addiction, which is false comfort. The greater the volume of our pain, the greater the operating area for grace.

Paul wrote about his own vulnerability in 2 Corinthians 12. We don’t know what his problem was, but he pleaded with God three times to remove it. Instead of liberating Paul from pain, God empowered him to endure it:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

That’s a gritty sort of realistic faith, well-suited for life in the trenches of a twisted world. Faith that endures unanswered prayers and unrelenting pain might not sell a lot of books, but it fuels the lives of people who have no choice but to bear the unbearable. This kind of faith defiantly shakes a fist in the face of gut-wrenching reality.

How will you deal with the giants in your life? With somebody else’s ill-fitting armor? Will you soothe those shortfalls with false comfort?

You can learn to delight in your weakness so that you can experience the strength of Christ.

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So I went to Ulta.

[Disclaimer: If you’re not interested in reading about an average southern guy making an emergency trip to a cosmetics superstore, feel free to move along. No hard feelings.]

This past Friday night, I loaded up the family and drove about 50 miles to celebrate our daughters’ birthdays.  My younger daughter and her friends chose the trampoline park for their activity. Not wanting to risk their hair and makeup with such sweatiness, the older girls chose to go to the mall.

At some point during the hour-long drive south I sensed a familiar, annoying sensation. I’m a bearded American male. I don’t have a Viking/hipster/biker gang /19th century theologian beard. It’s just a sensible average beard. Perhaps the only downside of having a beard is that I occasionally get stray whiskers lodged in my gum line. Stay with me here. It’s my personal truth.

Somehow, individual whiskers come loose from my face and embed themselves between my teeth and gums. It’s physically uncomfortable, slightly painful, and distracting. This has probably happened ten times over the past five years. [As an aside, if you’re in medicine or media and you’d like to write up my case for a medical journal or documentary, please contact me.]

I’ve found that there is one surefire method to remove these foreign fibers: needle nose tweezers. Regular slant tweezers just won’t work. By the time we rolled into Texarkana, the foreign object in my gums was eroding my sanity. The older girls wanted to be dropped off at Pier One, which was conveniently located next to a store that was uniquely suited to provide relief.

While they were unloading, I ducked into Ulta. The chain posted almost five billion in sales last year from its almost 1000 locations… including the one in Texarkana, which was about to deliver me from my developing emergency.

ulta

It’s blindingly bright. There’s an overwhelming plethora of cosmetic paraphernalia. There’s a salon. They even have a few rows of products for men: all sorts of spendy beard waxes and facial moisturizers. But I was a man on a mission.

I stepped in with manifest purpose. A chipper young lady greeted me and asked if she could help. “Tweezers,” I said. She tilted her head at me the same way that our dachshund used to look at me when I would try to explain theology to him. She was obviously a new hire. She directed me to a helpful sales associate who led me straight to the tweezer section.

Out of a dozen different models, I opted for the Tweezerman© needle points. tweezerman needle.jpgThey were $24, which sounds like a lot. But if you’re familiar with the finer things, you’ll appreciate the fact that Tweezerman© is owned by J.A. Henckels, a 350 year old German cutlery firm. That history, combined with the fact that I was being gum-stabbed by a rogue whisker made those $24 tweezers seem like a steal.

One of the sales associates met me at the checkout. “Will this be all for you today?” Everything seemed normal up until this point. I was one debit card swipe away from ending the oral nightmare I’d endured for 47 minutes. And then it all went haywire.

She asked for my phone number, but not in a complimentary way. Why did she need my number? Were these tweezers so sharp that they qualified as a weapon to be registered? Were they so expensive that they came with a warranty? At that point I didn’t care. I gave her my number. She keyed it in, and then looked down at her monitor with her own confused dachshund look.

“Okay, that number’s not in the system. Maybe it’s under your wife’s? What’s her number?” And that’s when I broke the social contract of Ulta. These words literally came out of my throbbing mouth:

“Can I just pay for the tweezers and go?”

It was rude of me. I should have just given the number and moved on. As an introverted American, I’m annoyed at the prevailing American economic system that is increasingly data-driven and relational. Join the rewards club!? Sign up for the credit card!? Complete this survey!? I just want to trade money for products like our forefathers did. But back to Ulta…

The original dachshund head tilt girl had come over to observe the transaction. She was stunned at my upending the social order. Her eyes widened. Clearly her training hadn’t prepared her for this crisis: a customer was refusing to give his phone number. Should she call security?

The associate at the register was surprised also, but in a more visceral, morally outraged  sort of way. Her jaw fell slack, but she said nothing. She didn’t have to. Her eyes said it all. I had broken the Ulta code.

She probably would’ve been more polite if I’d kicked her puppy and tried to hold up the place. Her eyes screamed rhetorical questions at me: “What kind of reprobate doesn’t provide a phone number at Ulta? What are you trying to hide?”

I swiped my card, got my receipt and speed-walked out of the store and back to the vehicle. Within 20 seconds I had unpackaged the German-engineered tweezers of healing and began operating on myself. Ninety seconds later, I extricated the offending object and was able to enjoy the rest of the evening.

At some point over the next few days, I relayed a brief version of my Ulta experience to my spouse. Her only reaction: “YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T GET MY REWARD POINTS?!”

I can’t win.

 

A Tale of Two Giants

beach comfort BW.jpgIt’s easy to define comfort by what it’s not, or what it lacks. In the textbook definition, comfort is the absence of fear, pain, or constraint. In other words, to be comfortable means that you’re not scared, you’re not hurting, and there’s nothing that you need or need to do.

In his book Goliath Must Fall, Louie Giglio writes about the giant of comfort. The usual suspects are oppressive ogres like fear and rejection. But the enemy will use anything in his arsenal to bluster you back from the battlefield… or to lure you to lounge in the comforts of camp.

The unnamed giant in 1 Samuel 17 is the giant of comfort. Goliath was the scary giant that pushed soldiers to shrink back from battle. Comfort was the subtle giant that whispered to them to stay in the security of the camp.

Jesse’s three oldest sons were in uniform for the army of Israel. He sent his youngest son David to deliver provisions for his brothers and bring back word on their condition. David had been feeding the sheep back on the farm, but dutifully headed to the battlefield. David’s mission was clear: leave the groceries and pick up the news. But David was diverted by an overriding concern.

There was a status quo when David arrived in camp that day.

For at least 40 days, the three oldest brothers had been camped out against the Philistines, but it seems that there had been no battle. Twice a day for six weeks, Goliath had come out to curse and challenge the Israelites to send somebody to fight him. But nobody wanted to go out and face him.

Here’s what we know:
1) David was taking care of things back home (v. 15).
2) David was bringing groceries from home (v. 17).

I’m not downplaying the facts that Goliath was huge, or that the brothers had taken up arms for their country. But the brothers didn’t have to worry about the sheep, because David had been shepherding in their absence. They didn’t have to worry about hunger, because David arrived with groceries. Nor had they been fighting the giant, but David is about to handle that.

There’s a really good, accurate term to describe what the older brothers are doing when David arrives: it’s called camping.  They are in uniform, exempted from the drudgery of the farm, but they aren’t actually fighting. Goliath was the scary giant keeping the status quo, but comfort was the subtle giant helping the scary giant.

This status quo could have gone on indefinitely, as long as David kept feeding the sheep at home and feeding the brothers on the battlefield. The problem was the blasphemous giant, and David didn’t have the same reasons as the brothers to avoid the fight.

David wasn’t intimidated, because he had a proven record of killing scary stuff.
David wasn’t enticed by the comfortable status quo, because he had been working overtime to feed the sheep and his sheepish brothers. Most importantly, David sensed a divine mandate to face the giant.

This scary giant didn’t scare him, and this subtle giant didn’t seduce him.

As Giglio points out, we want to be David in this narrative. But in reality, we are the scared, complacent brothers. It’s fun to be on the team when you get to wear the jersey, eat the pregame meal, and go to the pep rally… especially if you’re not worried about getting hurt in the actual game. The brothers could camp for another day or another month, as long as their little brother showed up with more groceries.

In four minutes, David handled what they hadn’t handled in 40 days. Jesus is the liberating hero depicted in the bravery of David. His divine mandate freed the cowardly, complacent brothers to live in victory over the taunts of the giant. Jesus conquered sin and the grave, satisfying God’s requirements and stifling the taunts of our enemy.

When was the last time that you embraced the power of that divine victory and left the comfort of the status quo?