By Kevin Freeman
(Editor’s note: Courage for Crisis is a series of devotionals by Kevin Freeman, associate pastor at Redland Baptist Church in Rockville, MD).
Have you ever sought out a new mechanic to work on your car? What traits do you look for in a mechanic? That first trip to the shop will tell you a lot. You want a decent waiting area that doesn’t look too hectic. That little ASE sign in the window is comforting. Customer service does matter: you probably don’t want to be belittled for not knowing a carburetor from an alternator. Cost matters, too. But really, for most people, it all comes down to the immediate problem. My A/C is coming out hot. Can you fix it? The ability to fix cars is the number one trait desired when choosing a mechanic.
Here are some questions I’ve never asked my mechanic:
· Do you play any musical instruments?
· How are your baking skills?
· What brand of toilet paper do you prefer?
· To what extent do you think string theory is successful in uniting general relativity with quantum mechanics?
These questions simply do not factor into my decision over who should fix my car (though I’ll happily discuss baking quality scones if it comes up).
King Saul had a one-dimensional approach to his own problem. Because he had forsaken God, God had left him and “a harmful spirit” sometimes tormented him. We don’t know what that spirit was – maybe these were bouts with melancholy or depression – but the proposed solution was to bring in a musician to play those blues away. Saul wanted a musical mechanic to fix his troubled soul. When his servant suggested David, you would think he would say, “This kid is great on the harp!” and leave it at that. Instead, he lists a litany of David’s other skills and attributes to promote David as the young man for the job.
Why would such a renaissance man be useful for a harp-playing gig? Many of Saul’s woes were military in nature. It would help David to identify as a warrior. Plus, an attack from the Philistines meant every able-bodied person should join in the fray. David could easily trade the harp for the sword. In the king’s court, a certain level of decorum was expected. David was said to be well-spoken. He could speak well and carry himself appropriately. Depending on your translation, you’ll see that David was either “good looking” or had a “good presence.” Good looks? Uh oh! I can only do so much to live that one out. Regardless of how we look, we can take care of ourselves and present ourselves well. That sort of presence speaks much louder about our appearance than looks.
It is said that men and women look at themselves in the mirror differently. Women tend to magnify their worst features in the mirror. They reinforce what they perceive of their imperfections. Men do the opposite. They magnify their best features and reinforce those perceptions of how they look. The danger for us men is that, although we may promote a healthy self-image, we are prone to blind spots. Because we only focus on our best features, we are prone to overlook the parts of ourselves that need improvement. This goes way beyond our looks.
Beware the trap of one-dimensional manhood. It gives the lie that our proficiency in one area overshadows our failings in other areas. Whatever God is preparing you for requires depth. Usually, that means some measure of skillfulness in multiple areas. It always means the depth of character in how you live and carry yourself. That requires you to hold up the mirror to yourself and ask yourself, “In what areas do I need to grow”?
So do I care that my electrician enjoys needlepoint in his spare time? Yes. One day I will need to open up the areas where he worked and try to figure out what was wired where. A man who sews likely has an eye to detail, and the work he does in my home will be neat, even behind the walls. Would I be glad to know my tax adviser attends a church in the area? You bet! I want someone who comes under the teaching about right character to help me manage my finances. Depth of both character and skill matter for your development.
The next crisis is coming. One is always on the way. Those who are versatile in their strengths are better equipped to handle hard times. You may be able to play an instrument, but can you pick up a sword when the enemy attacks? Saul sent messengers to Jesse, David’s father, asking for “David, who is with the sheep.” This kid could have simply loafed as a shepherd. That task isn’t always easy, but David apparently pushed himself in those off moments. He played the harp while the sheep were grazing. He did target practice with the sling as he had the opportunity. He stayed vigilant and knew how to carry himself to be ready for anything.
But there is one trait that exceeds all the others, and it may be why Saul ultimately chose David. The Lord was with him. The king, whom God had left, employed the future king who enjoyed God’s presence. Skills and character are crucial, but our most valuable trait has little to do with us. A good mechanic can do decent work on cars even if his home life is in a shambles, but a person who lacks God’s presence doesn’t have the depth to handle the crises of life.
God offers his presence at our invitation and at our initiative. James tells us to draw near to God, and God will draw near to us. Adopt a posture that invites God to be with you. It doesn’t matter how far you are from God. It matters to begin pursuing God, who promises to respond with his presence. Despite all of my talents – even the ones I magnify in the mirror of my mind – I want it to be said of me, “The Lord is with him.” How about you?