Monday, February 13, 2012

“On Tilt”

Leonard Cohen wrote a song so powerful and beautiful that he’s found himself suggesting performers strike it from their audition lists for a while.  “Hallelujah” has become the go-to, “pull out all the stops” anthem for American Idol contestants (among others) to the extent that the author fears its becoming clichéd.

“I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

With a little Samson mixed in for good measure, Cohen speaks sympathetically of King David’s “minor fall” and “major lift.”  David was a songwriter, too, and sung his own version of Hallelujah in Psalm 51:10-12:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
The story of David and Bathsheba is found in 2 Samuel 11.  It is surely one of the most read, discussed, and sermonized passages in the Bible.  But I’ll wager that not one of my readers have ever heard a sermon on 2 Samuel 10.  Note this word from our Sponsor about how the David and Bathsheba story begins:
Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle. (2 Samuel 11:1)
Do you know why March is named “March”?  In ancient times, the annual calendar began in the Spring.  You think tulips and bunnies; ancient kingdoms thought swords and battering rams.  With winter weather over and travel easier, “Spring Break” meant “Forward, March!” – March being named after Mars, the god of war.  Samuel chapter 11 takes place while the war is waging.  (Remember David sends Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, out to the battlefront, hoping he will die.)  But what caused the war in the first place – that is the more compelling story.

The prior chapter, 2 Samuel 10, is full of international diplomatic intrigue, deception, ego-driven posturing, and bluff-calling.  Please read the passage yourself very soon.  Basically, the Ammonites (in modern day Jordan, east of the Jordan River) humiliated two of Israel’s minor ambassadors.  An old-school Cuban Missle Crisis blew up only this time the two sides actually went to war.

Put aside any potential pious bias for a minute and ask, “was this war necessary?”.  It all began with a misunderstanding.  Two emissaries got humiliated – their pants taken off and beards shaved half off.  Is that worth 40,700 men dying?

Here’s my take, in Chapter 11 King David was “on tilt”.  In poker, when a player suffers a “bad beat” (an unexpected loss with the last card dealt), it is said that he plays the next few hands “on tilt” – or playing based on anger and humiliation rather than the shrewd tactics that had gotten him into the big game to begin with.  David swelled up and took grave offense at an immature act by the Ammonites and 40,700 sons, husbands, and fathers died.  Make that 40,700 + 1 – Uriah died, too. 

And while “all the kings men” were out waging war, David (accompanied by the unholy trio of wounded ego, jangled nerves, and guilty conscience) was pacing the roof tops of Jerusalem – he was on tilt.  Hardly anything good happens when you’re on tilt.  You’re irrational, irritable, and frequently self-destructive as well as reckless with and toward others.

When you're "on tilt", you feel like you're
right side up and it's the world that's
out of balance.  That's usually not the case.
Followers of Jesus are not immune to tilt.  Day after day the world gnaws at us.  Sometimes it seems that we lose big bites out of our back side.  When that happens we do stupid things.  We wound the ones closest to us and we lose our courage to face the conquerable challenges of life.  The entire trajectory of our life – take David’s for example – is thrown off-course because we failed to find balance.  Anything can cause tilt, but as David’s story reveals, it always starts with how you handle rejection – real or perceived.  You didn’t get a promotion, the trash didn’t get picked up, you suffer some gossip, your spouse is cranky with you, a product at the supermarket is priced wrong, nobody mentioned your birthday… maybe you had to go to the post office today – “going postal” is an extreme case of “on tilt”.  I have a relative who committed suicide when the toilet overflowed.  No foolin.  You don’t think he was “on tilt”, do ya?

The remedy is simple, isn’t it?  Our sponsor invites us to “cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  I believe that is true, but this also calls to mind a child’s wisdom when he told he had a friend, Jesus, up in heaven, “I know, but right now I need Jesus with skin on.” 

From personal experience, I can tell you it is critically important for every follower of Jesus to have at least one friend, close as a brother/sister, who you can call out to when you’re on tilt.  When you find yourself on tilt, let a confidante know that you’re hurting and need someone to right your ship.  Men, especially, need to learn it’s better to be vulnerable and transparent than to live on an island.  As my friend, Nathan Jones, puts it so well,  "we all need someone to lean on."  (I believe he's remind us old-timers of a great song from our ill-spent youth!)

Listen to wisdom – create or nurture a relationship that may well save the world your version of 40,701 dead men.  Listen to wisdom.  If I can be that kind of friend to you, I promise, I will be.

Clark H Smith

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel so I learned to touch
I told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord in song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

No comments:

Post a Comment