Ever been drawn to certain things and yet you could not figure out why? Well that exact conundrum has drawn me over and over again in my life to the story of King David and the endless ways he delved between sins and blessings.
The story of King David has always been a source of dissonance and conflict for me. I have at once been inspired by his endless resilience while being bewildered at the way he kept succumbing to his weaknesses.
But I guess this is what drew me to David’s narrative, amid his greatness he also resided in his smallness. This conflicting duality was and has been my life for as much as I could remember. David’s journey, his tribulations and his successes, have always been a guiding light for me during my darkest moments.
More than any character in the bible, David represented the very essence of humanity to me. In spite of his copious misdeeds, he nevertheless was loved by God. In the very places of his brokenness, David’s magnificence was made evident over and over again.
Thus when I read Psalms I am always torn between these dual traits of David. David was transgressed against endlessly but he was also transgressed against others. As he was persecuted and found shelter in the wilderness, he also persecuted others for the sake of his own gains. He was and always has been an oxymoron for this reason to me, a man who inherited abundance and yet over and over again wasted his riches by chasing secular pursuits and wantonness.
Maybe all of us are like David in a way, we all hurt others as others hurt us. This is why so many people find comfort in Psalms for if a man of stature like David can be saved from himself over and over again we too have a hope to escape our own shadows. I have sought shelter in the psalms that David was singing for he was really singing about all of us. Just like David, I have transgressed against endless people in my life and when it comes to being trespassed against, well let’s just say I’ve had my share of folks who have wiped their boots on my kindness.
So last night while reading Psalms, I was struck with this thought, how do we regain abundance after malice has arrived at our doorsteps. How do we smile after the world has robbed us of it, how do we reposes innocence after transgressions have been committed against us? I mean shall I be like David and wish for vengeance and for my tormentors to feel the tinge of pain? Or shall I be like David and bare my soul to God and ask that I be forgiven for my own transgressions. Do I repent for my misdeeds or do I get stuck in counting the heinous deeds of others.
But then I realize that our lives are a series of blessings and misfortune; just as light needs darkness and rain exists within the context of sunshine, our lives are dualities and in order to realize our potential as human beings we have to count both joy and burdens as blessings. As we forgive others we must ask for forgiveness and as we strive to do better we must acknowledge that we always fall short. Above all, the answer resides not within us but outside of us.
It is hard to have this level of faith, to believe in a love that is not truly tangible nor quantifiable. But it is that precise love outside of humanity that is enduring and will stand the test of time. I have learned in life that trying to please people and expecting love back is a road that will always lead to sorrows and heartache. Even as I denied God in my past, the only presence that has been abiding and constant is my father above who refuses to leave regardless of my circumstances.
It reminds me of a time I randomly opened up the bible during my time of distress and arrived at Jeremiah 17:5 and read the following words:
“Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
Life is long for a reason, perhaps the endless snares I kept wallowing in was because I was trying to please others instead of pleasing God. To this day, when I cook I am more worried about how others will perceive it than the fact that I am actually nourishing them. When I talk to others I am more worried about their feelings than I am free in the moment. And when it comes to looking forward into the future, I am more entrapped by people’s past indifference and hatred than I am in looking forward towards the fruitfulness that God has in store for me. If I have been baffled by David’s conundrum in the past it’s only because I’m the conundrum myself.
I get it now, my 40th birthday began a two year lesson that is still going on one month after my 42nd birthday. I will just trust God and believe in my heart that this journey I’m on will one day lead me to fruitfulness. Until then, I will continue to seek refuge in a power greater than me for it was a power greater than me who kept me when others left me. It stopped being a conundrum when I realize that I’m not smart enough to understand God’s providence. Maybe the first step towards acceptance is the humility to understand that we can’t control our circumstances.
“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.” ~ Psalms 91:14-16
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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