8/1 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a and Psalm 51:1-12 • Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 and Psalm 78:23-29 • Ephesians 4:1-16 • John 6:24-35
In today's reading from 2 Samuel, the prophet Nathan tells David that his mistakes will have repercussions down the line. Well, no disrespect to Nathan, but I could have told David that! Is there a grandmother in the world who has not watched her own children with some awareness that her own mistakes are being repeated to at least the third generation? With some further thought, any grandparent can look back a few generations and find the patterns that have continued through the family since that time – and now we're talking six generations, or more.
Not all of these family patterns are a bad thing. In the Exodus reading, for example, manna has been provided for the people to eat in the wilderness. A few verses later, specific rules were set out for managing the manna on the Sabbath, to avoid any work. A similar religious practice of a Sabbath rest was still going on, at least among the older folks in my extended family, until the 1960s. The Sabbath was a part of my family's way of being. The pattern of honoring a certain day of the week as set aside, as sacred, did not go unnoticed. Actions do speak.
Of course, some remember the Sabbath less fondly. Jesus himself railed against those who were too rigid about observing the day of rest. It's the same with anything a family seeks to make important. Without flexibility, any pattern can have a negative side. A family who values hard work can lose its playfulness. A family who values doing things well can become perfectionistic. And then the next generation may choose the polar opposite behavior, which simply continues the rigidity and the lack of options of the other extreme.
For the person seeking a way out of the mistakes of the past, his own reactivity can get in the way. The inability to see what others were up against keeps him from considering a more flexible response. The idea of finding a middle way, instead of the other extreme, is simply unavailable to him. Here, the Ephesians reading speaks volumes: We must no longer be children… we must grow up in every way (4:14-15).
Growing up begins with calming down. Jesus is saying as much, when confronted by those who want to know about the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. He tells them that their appetite for bread was getting in the way of finding the food that endures for eternal life (John 6:27).
David's appetite for Bathsheba pushed him towards some terrible choices. I can almost hear my neighbor scolding her dog, Wrong Fido wrong! All of us mammals can let our instinctual drives lead us astray. Growing up involves attending to them without letting them steer the course. A lovely hymn, Dear Lord, creator of us all, (and may I be excused for the liberties I have taken with the title), prays us out of the conundrum. Beginning with a request to reclothe us in our rightful minds, and moving on to orderly lives and Sabbath rest, it concludes as follows: Breathe through the heats of our desire/ thy coolness and thy balm; let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,/ O still, small voice of calm!
Morning: What family patterns am I reactive to? How can I find a middle way?
Evening: When were my appetites in charge of my actions today?
Psalm 51:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.