I know, you're not surprised I said that. Sometimes it seems as if anyone can interpret the Bible any way they want and make it seem to justify anything.
But at the risk of doing just that, I will forge ahead.
In my younger days, I very much identified with the David and Goliath story for its focus on the victory of the underdog. I like challenges, and I like taking them on alone. I like the idea that I'm the only one with the guts and the commitment to step forward and accomplish the impossible. My stage, my Oscar.
It's not that I had a grandiose opinion of my abilities-- I just liked the idea of being the hero.
Recently in a Sunday "Opus" comic drawn by Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed, the whiz kid Oliver Wendell Jones points out that the Hubble telescope has discovered a myriad of galaxies in a slice of the sky which appears to the naked eye as no bigger than a grain of sand. Given this unmeasurable hugeness, he asks, "Where is the center of it all?"
To which Opus the Penguin replies, silently, "Me, baby."
It is perhaps one of the faults of Christianity that we have misinterpreted Jesus' words that we are more valuable than many sparrows, and that God does not want to see one of his sheep lost. Somehow we translated those gracious words into "I am the center of the universe."
So it becomes easy for a person to identify with David, and look at any challenge he or she is facing, and think that if one has enough faith, that challenge is going down.
But here is what I learned about the David and Goliath challenge: it involves two people, on an empty field, with a single purpose. It is simple and straightforward. David is on the Israeli side. He is a little boy with a sling and stone. Goliath is on the Philistine side. He is an armored giant with a shield and sword. It is Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots in the Negev Desert. As Jack Nicholson might have said, it's "mano y mano."
It is also morally straightforward: if Goliath wins, then the Israelites becomes the Philistines' slaves. This is a matter of the survival of God's people.
How many of our own battles are so simple? Is there any place in our lives where we can distill any of the things we do into one single, purified draught?
How many of our battles, in fact, involve three, six, a dozen, a thousand other personalities? When I send my manuscript out for representation, it's not just a matter of making it the best I can and praying to God for a break. Ten thousand other people are out there doing the same thing. Yes, getting published can be a feat the size of David laying Goliath low. But for 99.9% of us, it is not a matter of throwing one stone and hitting the mark.
The same is true of interpersonal relationships. Teachers seeking to become Mentors of teenage heroes have to deal with long and complicated personal histories. Intimate relationships are affected by everything each person has lived.
Even getting to a dinner date on time can be impossible based on the tens of thousands of others who may be attempting to do the very same thing, and who are wondering why they, of all people, have to have this curse of a traffic jam laid upon them.
I have not read up on the various theological interpretations of the David and Goliath story. I have a feeling that Jewish rabbis have done a good job on it. But I suspect that the interpretation I always used-- in any tough situation, just say a prayer and win, baby-- is no longer useful for me without further perspective.
This is not to say that I have given up on facing challenges. Far from it. Nowadays, however, I take some time to consider if the battle is worthy, or a joust at windmills. And on my best days, I look not just to myself but to others, too. Hell may be other people, but Hell is being alone, too.
I used to want to be the Golden Child, the Anointed Prince, the Favored Head. Now I am more interested in being a Human Being, God help me, with all the glory and humility that goes along with that title.
Photo found here.