7/18: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a and Psalm 89:20-37 • Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Psalm 23 • Ephesians 2:11-22 • Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Whether you are a person with too much on your plate or too little to do, today's 2 Samuel reading is meant for you. In it, David, a person with a lot on his plate, hears from his chief advisor/prophet that he's supposed to build a temple. That night, though, in his own prayers, he hears from God that it's not time to build a temple. Not only that, he hears that God has someone else in mind for the task!
People who tend to take on too much can forget that there are others who might be more fit for a job. On the other hand, those who tend to take on too little must be given room to gain the experience necessary to succeed. Some take on too much in one sphere and too little in others. Every situation, though, provides the same question: Which comes first?
In the 2 Samuel story, it's clear: David, (and by extension, all those who do too much) must step down so that others can step up. Those stepping down step down must continue to focus on the work that matters to them, resisting the urge to take over what belongs to someone else to do. In equal measure, those who step up must resist the the helplessness that can emerge when trying something new or difficult. When both sides can find a new balance, the entire unit – family, congregation, office, or other – can become more functional.
In this week's Mark reading, Jesus provides an example of what happens when the leader chooses to step back. He had previously sent the disciples out, in pairs, to teach and to heal. On their return, they tell him all they have done. If he thought of how much better he could have done it, it went unmentioned. Neither does Jesus explain the disciples what they should have done. Instead, he listens with interest to all they have to say.
Jesus had a capacity to both listen to others and to love them objectively. While he saw the disciples for who they were, he neither overlooked their flaws nor got judgy about them. Maybe he was aided by his own sense of self. He had his own principles which no one – from his own disciples to his family to the religious elite – could take from him. He was that solid. Even under pressure, he managed to remain himself, choosing to do what seemed best to him. When a person is that clear, the things that matter to most of us – like being agreeable or agreed with – don't even seem to be considerations at all. He could simply listen, being in contact with the disciples without becoming responsible for them.
After the disciples finish telling him about their journeys, he offered no instruction. Instead, he invited them to take a retreat and rest a while. When a person takes the time to rest and reflect, one is more ready to listen to the lessons of life. Once thoughtfully considered, what is one's own to do and what belongs on someone else's plate can become clearer.
Morning: What is mine to do today? Where might I step up or back?
Evening: When did I find time to rest in my day?
Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.