Oh! The Heart
Oh, the heart. It's deceitful, it's pure, out of it are the issues of life. As necessary as is the physical organ that pumps healing blood to the whole of our body, so is this spiritual, and ever-present, necessity to us. And just as the physical heart can cause our bodies a heap of trouble with its glitches, so the spiritual heart can.
As a praise and worship leader for my church the story of Michal-in-the-window has always been my banner. I'm old-school! Put me in an African-American church in the 1960’s, give me a tambourine, add a contestant judge and they'd be hard-pressed to determine if I were still Caucasian!
“Don't mock MY praise! I will become more vile than this!”
Off I go, huck-a-bucking my pentecostal praise, hair and heels flying in opposite directions!
I preface with this description of myself because while I'm all about that praise, I'm about to give the story of Michal criticizing David a new perspective.
We know from 2 Samuel 6, that David praised the Lord in a most beautiful and elaborate way as the Ark of the Covenant was being brought back into Jerusalem. It was a glorious day that we still imagine and are impressed by. It is, as it should be, our measuring stick for praise and worship. It's an example of how much we should spend in both time, money, and energies. It is a reminder that God is worth THAT.
2 Samuel 6:16 (KJV)
And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.
In this story, Michal is the villain, for she watched her husband from a window, and when he came home she berated him. For this folly she would pay by never birthing a child. And we are ever reminded to never, ever mock someone’s praise, no matter how “vile” it looks.
But as a woman born and raised in a pastor’s home, as the sister of a pastor, as a friend to many preachers, I have my own perspective to this story. I've been David, and I've seen those who disliked my exuberance. (Too bad.) I've been Michal too. I daresay any woman married to a Christian man has experienced Michal’s disdain.
Michal was born a pawn. As a female of the ancient culture, she had no rights. Her only value was in what her bloodline brought a prospective husband. She grew up knowing she would marry whoever her father needed an alliance with. And then the fairytale happened…
Out of nowhere a pink-cheeked firecracker shepherd boy blew everybody’s mind by killing the giant, Goliath! He was an instant rock star! He was every maiden’s heartthrob! And while every maiden might have WANTED him as their husband, she was the only one with half a chance. Michal was smitten with David.
But, as life would have it, she had an elder sister. Michal’s hopes of being the esteemed wife of her dreamboat was not to be…
Wait a minute!
Was it was!
Her insane father, King Saul, married her older sister to another man! Oh joy! Nevermind the fact that her father saw her with such low disregard that he was willing (even glad) to marry her lowly-self to his enemy. She’d grown up not feeling the love of a father. NOW, she was going to have the love of her imaginations!
She would be the wife of David! She had swooned at the depth of his musical art. She had melted as his voice filled the castle with song. His fingers were plucking her heartstrings even as they plucked the harp. This man of such emotional depth would give her love as deep as the oceans. This man that had defended an entire nation would be her defense. He was her package. And in a time when a woman rarely got to marry her choice of man, she got to marry her top-choice.
She proved her love and devotion to him by risking her own life to save his. She stayed behind in the castle while he scurried out the window in the dead of night. She stayed behind to face the wrath of an insane man.
In this scene we already see that David was not the protective defender a woman expects a husband to be. If I were writing a movie script of this scene, it would have its most loving affect if David had insisted his bride come with him. It would have been much more romantic (and female-expecting) if he had said, “I cannot go without thee, my love!” (Yes. I threw some KJV in there.) But, David did not whisk his wife away with him. He left her to deal with the sporadic lunacies of her father.
And then the unthinkable happens…
Her father gives her to another man! Michal finds herself living in another man’s home, running a household for a man who wasn't anything like “her David.” She lived with this new husband year after year without David so much as sending a message to her. She was utterly abandoned by David.
Meanwhile, it turns out David could, after all, travel just fine with a woman in tow. David was rescuing damsels-in-distress left and right! While Michal is pawned off to a new husband, David marries and has children with multiple women!
It turned out, however, that her predicament wasn't all bad. Michal had a beautiful thing unfold for her during this tumultuous time period, Phalti, her new husband fell madly in love with her. For the first time in Michal’s life, a man loved her. She had never known the love of a father, brother, or husband. Though she had given herself to the duties of these men and their roles in her life. It wasn't until she was given to Phalti as a wife that she was loved.
But this is not the end of her roller coaster life. She receives word that her brother has been killed in battle, and that her father committed suicide. Surely, after having not heard hide-nor-hare from David during all these years, she was fearful for her life, as were her siblings and other members of Saul’s family. It was common for a hopeful king to better his chances of acceptance of the people by killing “rightful” rivals to the throne. David did not kill her. He went another route common to royalty; he used his marriage to King Saul’s daughter as political clout to further his “right” to the throne.
Michal was to David what she was to her father, property.
One of the most heartbreaking stories of the Bible is that of Phalti following behind Michal, weeping the entire route as she's taken back to the palace royal.
As I grew up hearing the story of Michal’s criticism of David’s praise, I pictured a Disney-esque princess, one who'd had nothing but luxuries handed her on a silver platter. I pictured her as one of those pageant-perfect beauties who was too uppity to allow a hair to get out of place. I did not picture an emotionally battered and bruised Michal.
There was a phrase in this story that I’d missed…
2 Samuel 6:20 (KJV)
Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
“…who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids…”
Michal was a bitter woman, overcome with the pain caused by men in leadership. She was certainly sick of “his women.”
Lest you begin to think I am giving women a right to bitterness and disrespect of men, or that I am excusing Michal’s criticism, let me move on.
1 Samuel 16:7 (KJV)
…for [the LORD seeth] not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
In that moment of ministry, as David stripped himself of royalty, sacrificed every six paces, danced before the Lord, HE WAS LEGIT. This is hard for humanity to grasp. God’s ability to forgive, to remove sin, to give us our dreams in spite of our failures is so hard to grasp. Not only do we have a hard time accepting God’s use of others who are flawed vessels, we staunch the flow of God’s ministry through our OWN lives. We know our own missteps, and we can't believe God would actually use such a sinner. But God really is THAT miraculous in his ability to forgive, cleanse, and use us for His glory.
We curse ourselves with barrenness when we excuse our bitterness that is due to their disdainful behavior. “That minister caused the pain. That minister was unfaithful to me AND God!”
Wives and children of ministers are most susceptible to this trap. The closer one is to a minister, the more aware one is of their undeserved use in The Master’s hand.
Oh, the heart…
We see the physical failings of a minister, but we cannot see when God has given them a new heart. God performs heart transplants all of the time! We love it when we see the drug addict’s heart made new. We rejoice at those first-time heart transplants. But if we’re not careful, we’ll be like Michal and despise the required multiple heart transplant of the one closest to us.
We are not to excuse sin. We should, in fact, firstly go to them privately with our concerns for their behaviors that will jepeodize their position of leadership, and more importantly, their salvation. If they do not change, then we should privately and discreetly go to someone of a higher authority for guidance. (Privately and discreetly. Privately and discreetly. You have no idea how often I feel like typing those words.) Ultimately, we cannot force the person of our concern to get right and do right. We must leave them in the hands of a merciful and faithful God. We must focus on our own heart and its need to be bitter-free. We certainly shouldn't be like Jonah and be angry with God’s choice to forgive.
God asks that we not excuse our bitterness, but that instead, we seek our own heart transplant. Michal spent her life accepting that she was a pawn, when she could have seen herself as the queen, making differences in her own way, of her own creativity. We cannot achieve what God has created us to achieve if we allow bitterness to shade everything we see. Everybody else in the land saw David in his purest form. She saw him through eyes of bitterness.
Bitterness will close our womb of creativity.
Forgiveness will fertilize our right to rule side-by-side with The King of kings.
Hebrews 12:15 (KJV)
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled;