I despised Jane (not her real name). I disdained the blue ribbon in her hair. I sniffed at her brown shoes. I thoroughly disliked the way her mouth hung open over her workbook. Seven-year-olds are so judgmental. Most of all, I despised the casting of Jane as Mary in the school nativity play. I could hardly look at her in her blue dressing-gown costume. I did not consider her good enough. I wanted to be considered better.
Whether it is power or innocence, enthusiasm or freedom, the emotion of despisal usually says as much about our own insecurities or injuries as it does about the despised.
Michal despised David. She cringed at the sight of his body. She may have had reason to be angry at him. Probably she considered it hypocrisy, watching him dance, as though all were right between him and God, and between the world and God. Michal despised him because she was unable to dance as though all were well with the world.
There is a saying about cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The people gathered before the tent of the ark and shared in the ritual, sacrificial food, their communion with God and with one another, a sacramental sign of God’s blessing among them. Michal remained apart, imprisoned behind her window of pain.
I considered sulkily sitting out the nativity play. But my teacher saw through my bitterness. Because her own heart was tender, she was able to humble mine enough not to push Jane off the donkey, and even to find some satisfaction in singing the part of a chorus angel.
Bitterness, envy, even injury can be isolating, building up walls between our hearts and the heart of God. Dismantling our defenses of contempt or despair is best done gently. But love always finds a way.
“A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). Deliver me from bitterness, soothe the scars of my heart, and seal it and heal it for love. Amen.
Two readings this week focus on welcoming God’s presence. David does this by bringing the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. As the ark arrives, David dances, worshiping God with reckless abandon. The author of Psalm 24 poetically calls a city to open its gates and welcome the great king. These passages invite us to consider how willingly we receive God into our lives. The reading from Ephesians speaks of God’s eternal plan. While circumstances may seem chaotic, God holds an eternal perspective and has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. Mark tells the sad story of the execution of John the Baptist, yet another example of a righteous person experiencing persecution.
Read 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19. How do you bless others in your daily life?
Read Psalm 24. In what ways do you honor the Creator in the ways you care for God’s creation?
Read Ephesians 1:3-14. Where have you stumbled on your faith journey and found God ready and willing to help?
Read Mark 6:14-29. When have you experienced a guilty conscience? Did you resolve the issue that was causing the feeling?
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