Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Minor Characters

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

The long arc of David’s story — from shepherd to giant-conqueror to warrior to fugitive to king — is told through 1 and 2 Samuel, and again in 1 and 2 Chronicles. This week’s Old Testament text portrays a triumphant moment for David. He’s leading a group of men, and they’re bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the city of David, playing musical instruments, shouting, and dancing with all their might.

And mentioned in the middle of the passage is Michal, daughter of Saul, who looked out the window and saw David “leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” (v. 16 )

Who is Michal, other than Saul’s daughter? Why does she despise the sight of David dancing? It’s tempting to skip over this single verse, because it doesn’t seem to fit.

Michal was Saul’s youngest daughter, and years ago, she fell in love with David. Her father found out, and used her as a pawn to lure David into a dangerous wager that Saul hoped would result in David’s death. David delivered on his end of the bargain, so Michal became his wife.

Not long after that, Michal defied her father and helped David escape, saving his life. And then he went on the run.

With David gone, Michal’s father gave her to another man in marriage. This man loved her — when David returned years later, triumphant, and sent men to bring Michal to him, her second husband followed, begging not to lose her. He was told to go back home. Scripture doesn’t tell us how Michal felt about this turn of events, but perhaps this week's text gives us a clue.

Michal is a minor character compared to others in the story — David, Saul, her brother Jonathan. But she still has a story. If given the chance, how would she tell it?

In our own lives, we often look at others as minor characters. Even if we understand our lives as part of God’s story, we still run the risk of putting ourselves, our family, our church, our friends, our workplace, our nation, and our culture, at the center. We almost can’t help it. It’s the “view from the ground.” It’s how we make sense of the world.

The danger is that in relegating others to a minor role, we may forget that with God, there are no minor characters. When we forget that, we lose our capacity for compassion outside of our small circle. We also lose our ability to be blessed by learning what God is doing in others' lives.

God, in the person of Jesus Christ, demonstrated quite often that in God’s story, there are no minor characters. He specialized in turning upside-down every conventional notion of "major" and "minor." He conversed with an outcast Samaritan woman at a well. He noticed a blind man calling out for mercy, and healed him. He called out Zaccheus, up in the tree, and invited himself to dinner. He saw a widow putting small change in the offering, and lifted her up to the disciples as an example of great generosity.

Who are the "minor characters" in our world today? Who are the "minor characters" in our own lives? How can seeing them differently help us to be more compassionate? How can seeing them differently allow us to receive the blessings they bring?

1 comment:

Dan Mayes said...

Thank you, Rebecca, for your post and for calling us to pay more attention to everyone around us (and to God at work in them).