Word of the Week

Besides the common saying that “there are two things that you can be certain of ” (Do you know what they are?) DEATH and TAXES, I would add two more things. You can be certain that human beings will do stupid things from time to time and also not want to admit that they’ve done so.

(Not you or me of course . . . )

When all goes wrong, one choice we have is to lie.

A lawyer friend of Kevin’s and mine, Bhavik who works in Northern Virginia, recently told me about a case that came to his attention at his firm.

Two friends were going out for drinks one Friday night and went a little overboard. Instead of calling a cab or another friend to take them home, the two friends got in the car and decided to find their way home. When they began to swerve all over the place and soon found those flashing blue lights behind them, the two men made their choice. They played fruit basket turn over in the car with the passenger coming to the backseat and the driver coming to the passenger side. They curled themselves into a ball like children and pretended to be asleep.

When the officers came to ask who was driving the car, both gentlemen had blank looks on their faces as if aliens had driven them to the side of the road. Neither of them would admit they drove or knew who drove the car, even when they were handcuffed and taken to the station for questioning.

It seemed that lying was just easier than telling the truth.

Or, when all goes wrong, we also have the choice to blame other people or influences.

A famous poet once said: “You can smile when all goes wrong when you have someone else to blame.”

I don’t know when is the last time you’ve been in a room with children, but when you are, you’ll probably notice children are more sophisticated than you think at the blame game.

When you get a group of them together and ask, “Who make a mess of the toys? Or, who spit on the floor? Or, who bit the girl sitting in the corner crying?” You probably won’t get a straight answer right away.

They’ll be saying: “She did it.” “No, she did it.” “No, he did it.” From the mouths of babes through our adult life, blaming other people is just easier than taking responsibility for our own actions.

Or, when all goes wrong, we also have the choice to simply hide, avoiding all consequences put together.

Several years ago there was a headline making the US national news: “Fake death pilot, hiding alive in remote Florida.”

This was the story: Marcus Schrenker, an Indiana businessman, married and father of three had a secret life. He’d embezzled millions from those who had trusted him as a money manager. He’d had an affair with another woman. In fact, there wasn’t much he’d told the truth about in a long while.

And Marcus couldn’t imagine owning up to his mistakes.

So, he made the choice to hide in the best way he knew how: stage his own death.

This trained pilot fell out of an airplane with get-a-way motorcycle nearby. As soon as he dusted himself off, he made his way to a pre-planned hideout: a campground, miles from anyone who might know him.

Though this plan meant saying goodbye to family, friends and everything about his life before, falling out of an airplane and pretending to be dead seemed to be a better option than telling the truth and going to jail.

(He eventually got caught anyway . . .)

In Psalms 51, we find the poetic work of the great king of Israel, David. A guy who has a lot in common with the three examples I just shared with you. David lied, blamed others, and hid when it was discovered he had messed up big time.

It’s a story that asks us to stop and think about how we respond to those moments in our lives when all goes wrong too.

To understand the reason for this confessional Psalm, we have to go back to 2 Samuel to read the larger context. David was king of Israel. He was greatly beloved. He wasn’t known to make lots of mistakes. He was the original “golden boy” of his town.

David had the world at his hands. And, even the Lord sang his praise calling him “A man after God’s own heart.”

But, when you are on top of the world, it’s easy to forget who is truly the Creator of this world.

For David, there was this beautiful woman bathing on a rooftop. (Now, you and I know about this as a sweet children’s Sunday school lesson. But if we are to read it as adults we know that the tale goes from G rated to for adults only).

Bathsheba was bathing and Bathsheba’s husband out of town, so David just could not help himself. Even though he could have had any available woman in the kingdom and already had several wives in his household, greed and lust got the best of David. He has an affair with Bathsheba.

When David got word that Bathsheba was now carrying his child, he makes a plan whereby Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah is sent from war so that the child could be thought to be his. Yet, when Uriah refuses to lie with his wife on his furlough from war, David makes sure that this little problem will be disposed of quickly and quietly.

David sends Uriah’s troops to the dangerous front lines. Soon he’s dead. Pregnant Bathsheba now moves into the palace with David and has his son.

While the cover-up seemed to work and from the outside everything seems ok, all was wrong with David life at this point.

Everything was about to catch up with him too. The man after God’s own heart had committed adultery and ordered the murder of an innocent person. He was hiding his wrongdoing.

David should have known that something was up after Nathan, the great prophet of the country, shows up at his doorstep, but he doesn’t say a word. It takes a convicting story and a truth in your face kind of accusation from Nathan: “You are the man!” before David begins to own up to what has occurred.

But, yet the beauty of this David’s response in 2 Samuel 12:3: “I have sinned against the LORD.”

He says he was wrong. He says he messed up. He stops all rounds on the blame game and he confesses not only these things but that he has sinned against the Lord.

David turns to the Lord realizing yes, he’d done things that had hurt his family, Bathsheba’s family and even his nation, but above claiming that he done wrong against God.

Psalm 51:4 says: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.”

You see, David wasn’t trying to do anything to get out of his mess other than recognizing he deserved any punishment he might receive. David acknowledged that sin was a problem concerning God and his relations with him. Not anyone else.

Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, Speaking of Sin writes about this when she says: “Sin is our only hope, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again. . . . You decide to call it sin, then you have already made a radical shift in your perception of reality. You have admitted that something is wrong, for one thing, and you have chosen that it requires something of you.” (p. 41, 42)

In admitting wrongdoing, David says his future lies in the hands of God.

And what David was asking for was not the self-deprecating type of confession “I’m such an awful person there’s no way that God can forgive me” BUT an invitation for God to come into his life and in a new way.

Verse 10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

David asks for God to bring into existence in him what was not there before. To, create in him a different outlook. We know this as he’s chosen the same Hebrew verb for "create" that was used to describe the creation of the world in Genesis 1. David desires a new creation in his very being, a re-start.

In the end, I believe this Psalm becomes more about God and God’s character than it ever was about David anyway.

Though David’s sin was forgiven (he was allowed to remain as king, and even have another child with Bathsheba after the first one dies), it important to remember that he broke at least half of the precious Ten Commandments! David was forgiven and allowed to live—which was quite amazing considering what he’d done.

God still loved David unconditionally. It's the same way God loves us. 

I offer that for any of us who have royally screwed up then-- 

Now is the time to confess the ways we’ve fallen short of the mark of God’s best for us.

Now is the time for assurance that as we cry to God: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit” that God will do just this.

If all has gone wrong in your life path this week, of if all goes wrong in your path in the months or years to come (as it in evidently will), I give you a God who lovingly desires to keep relationship with you intact, no matter what.

I give you a God today who longs to re-create a clean spirit in you.

I give you a God who is with you through the valleys of “all things going wrong” and just wants you to come home to embrace Christ’s loving arms of love.

It’s good news we all need.