If you are someone who loves to read, what stories capture your attention and leave an imprint on your heart and mind long after you read the last line?
You may be thinking about the genre that most appeals to you or the author you wait on for their latest release and I can be right there with you. I am not a great fan of certain themes or types of writing even though I likely have read some of almost every kind of story and I am likely to preorder my favorite authors’ upcoming new releases. My bookshelves are never empty, but those are not often the stories that leave an imprint that I retell over coffee or lunch with a friend.
The stories I am captured by and often retell have no big name as the main character. It is often an ordinary person whose life and choices, challenges and accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses will long remain in my memory. Think about the latest book you have read, what can you tell me about it now beyond a few points here and there?
Now think of an ordinary girl living in Holland during WW II whose family chooses to hide those who are hunted down for destruction and then faces imprisonment in the most horrible conditions and the name Corrie Ten Boom might well come to mind. We would not likely call her ordinary and yet we may never have heard of her had she not lived a life where she was called to live out her faith, elected by God to be his witness.
Despite all our plans and preparation, we do not know what doors will open for us or when. No matter what we believe we are called to do or be, who calls us will likely set the course for our path. No matter how ordinary we may be in the scheme of things, there will be a calling and how we respond will be what becomes our story and what we will be remembered by long after we have left this life for the next one.
Of all the stories in the Bible we may recall, how often are they not a story of an ordinary and flawed person called to play a key role in “the God story” of which we are all a part. There was Joseph the braggart, Jacob the schemer, Moses the stutterer, Rahab the harlot, and David the shepherd boy to name just a few on the list. These and others point to a powerful truth.
“Election into God’s purposes isn’t by popular vote. Election into God’s purposes isn’t based on proven ability or potential promise.”Eugene Peterson
A look at David’s life that we often revere shows us the truth of a young shepherd boy who loved to sing and protected his father’s sheep from predators and then one day while delivering lunch to his brothers on the battle lines of a war, volunteers to slay a giant named Goliath. From that point on, we are prone to not see David as very ordinary. As his life story unfolds, we get caught up in his triumphs and see his glaring failures. And perhaps that is why we are drawn to that story, the story of David. His story gives us hope for ourselves as well, ordinary as we are and flawed as we are.
“The David story immerses us in a reality that embraces the entire range of humanness, stretching from the deep interior of our souls to the farthest reaches of our imaginations. No other biblical story has this range to it, showing the many dimensions of height, depth, breadth, and length of human experience as a person comes alive before God – aware of God, responsive to God. We’re never more alive than when we’re dealing with God. And there’s a sense in which we aren’t alive at all (in the uniquely human sense of “alive”) until we’re dealing with God. David deals with God. As an instance of humanity in himself, he isn’t much. He has little wisdom to pass on to us on how to live successfully. He was an unfortunate parent and an unfaithful husband. From a purely historical point of view, he was a barbaric chieftain with a talent for poetry. But David’s importance isn’t in his morality or his military prowess but in his experience of and witness to God.”Eugene Peterson
David wasn’t perfect and yet he was called onto the pages of history and immortality because of the One who chose him despite knowing even beforehand that he would fail as a parent and as a husband, that he would not set before us an exemplary example and yet be called one whose heart for God was honored and remembered many centuries later. David was what Eugene Peterson calls “earthy”. Why? Because we see him singing but also sinning, praying, and fighting, dancing and being dishonest. We see him as fully human, and we watch his response to God in these and all other aspects of his life.
It implicitly tells us there is nothing and no one that God cannot or will not use to work out his purposes in our lives and reveal the greatness of his grace. And that gives us hope as we fold laundry, sip coffee, apologize to a child for losing our temper, fail to be kind to a cranky neighbor, and more. After all, when God chose us, He knew what He was getting and even when we promised to follow Him that we would never do it perfectly. He chose us, knowing all of that, because of who HE is and how He can shine forth in the common clay pots we are. He also knew how He would act on our story to change and transform us in ways we could never have guessed.
“Let us therefore remember that David is like a mirror, in which God sets before us the continual course of his grace.”John Calvin from Commentary on Psalms