Pushing Thirty

and shedding pretentions

Selling Out

I just reread the story of Rehoboam, David’s foolish grandson.  I’ve read it lots of times, but last night i felt it. In the pit of my stomach, a gut-tumbling sensation took over, that sickening combination of it’s-too-bad-to-look and I’ve-been-there-myself.

If you haven’t read it, you’ll find it an approachable story.  Rehoboam ascends to the throne of Israel in his early twenties.  The confederacy of Jewish tribes, newly formed into a unified kingdom only a few generations ago, are already thinking about going back to self autonomy.  And there’s no better time to get out than when a new king gets in.  So Rehoboam consults his father’s cabinet, and they advise that he rule with a soft hand of diplomacy.  But he then makes the mistake of asking his college buddies what they think, and they advise the exact opposite:  rule with an iron fist.  He goes with his friends and loses almost everything.  The rest, as they say, is history.

But history is filled with people, as it turns out.  And I can suddenly relate to this one.  I can’t believe how hard-hitting this story is on the trail end of my twenties.  Almost thirty, I feel something in my heart that is worn out– my own bullheaded idealism. I remember (in the not too distant past) holding the conviction that to be anywhere between two poles was nothing less than selling out.  And I remember when I was gripped with the suspicion that the gray hairs of my leaders were not from wisdom earned from decades of valuable experience; maybe they were from the stress of compromising inch by inch, hour by hour.  In short, giving up.

Does Rehoboam feel as if he knows better than his father’s counselors?  No, he just feels the exhilaration of a zealot; his pride is masked by the thin facade of “a cause.”  He and his friends think that the reason they see things in black and white is their clarity– but really they’re foolish in their simplicity.  They don’t have a grasp on all the dynamics in play, much less a vision to take the hard, slow, and humble road if it means keeping the Kingdom in tact.  And so they stick to their principles, and a few opinions on government theory they learned in a political science class.

Or maybe it’s machisimo.  Maybe they feel the pressure to do what “real men” do: take the bull by the horns, show ’em who’s boss, and (no matter what) assert yourself.  He who panders is a pawn, right?  And this is the  broadest kink in the armor– dare I say ego?– of any young man.  It reminds me of a nike commercial some years ago urging me to be an olympic athelete inststead of going into middle management (as if !).  And that could be what is driving Rehoboam. Whatever it is, He and his friends blow the tinderbox sky high.

I think this mistrust for fathers and our fathers’ friends is part of what needs healed by the Lord.  I think its part of what God means when he says that he wants to turn the hearts of the children back to the fathers.  Life is too complex for youths dogged idealism, but fathers can walk us through it.  They’ve not sold out– the good ones– but have bought in to a vision so muchgreater than themselves  that they’re willing to make choices that wound their own pride for the good of the masses. And they’ve not succumbed to the position of a yes-man. They’ve agreed to be servants.  If the prospect of serving damages my male ego, then maybe the ego has to take a hit on this one.  Is it better to be the proud instigator of a civil war, or the humble leader of a nation united?

And what is the end of the matter? I want to buy in.  I want to know what that feels like.


October 23, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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