Diminished Capacity

1 Samuel 17:28-30 (the message)
     Eliab, his older brother, heard David fraternizing with the men and lost his temper: “What are you doing here! Why aren’t you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep? I know what you’re up to. You’ve come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!”
“What is with you?” replied David. “All I did was ask a question.” Ignoring his brother, he turned to someone else, asked the same question, and got the same answer as before.

David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, was minding his own business, tending daddy’s sheep, when the prophet Samuel called him from the fields and anointed him the next king of Israel.  All of David’s older brothers had been passed over. The oldest, Eliab, was a sure thing in Samuel’s opinion until God stopped him. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart (16:7).

As I’m reading about David’s encounter with Goliath I am struck by Eliab’s nasty attitude toward his youngest brother. This brother whom he knew was destined to rule.  While David’s youthful eagerness to hear about Goliath was probably annoying, I suspect Eliab’s pride was deeply threatened.

So he attempted to diminish David.

With his words, his attitude, his callous dismissal.

But young, fresh-from-the-sheep David refused to be diminished! The Bible says, ignoring his brother. David gave no serious pause or consideration to even his brother’s words because  the call of Creator was reverberating inside of him.

I wish I could write a really profound post about my own end-zone testimony here. But I can’t. I haven’t reached the end-zone. I can’t say that Eliab’s “scrawny flock of sheep” comment wouldn’t have wounded me. Stopped me. I can’t say that Eliab assuming the worst of my motives wouldn’t have tripped me or slowed me down.

Diminished me.

As I’m reading today I look over this old index card of scripture I use to mark my place. Check this out:

1 Corinthians 4:3 (Philips translation)
But, as a matter of fact, it matters little to me what you, or any man, thinks of me–I don’t even value my opinion of myself.

Makes me want to weep. Because if there is one diminishing opinion that weighs heavy like a hammer against my heart, it’s my own.

Here is my suspicion: we might realize we can’t walk fully into our God-planned destiny if we put too much value on the judgements of others, but we don’t forego our opinion of ourselves.

I don’t even value my opinion of myself. Words written by the apostle Paul. Goodness, but he was Saul first! Saul of Tarsus, a stridently religious man who arrested Christians until he became one. Paul most certainly had to overcome the attitudes, dismissals and judgements of others if he wanted to go all the way with Jesus. But how about the soul-whispers that might have taunted him in the middle of the night? How about the self-recrimination and regret for what he’d done…how he’d persecuted this Jesus he now loved?

It is here the slightest smile shapes my lips. David could never have lived out his messy and unforgettable destiny as a king after God’s own heart…Paul could never have lived as a ready-writer, ever-listening and sensitive to God’s Spirit at work in him…had they not let go of their own diminished capacity.

Those scrawny sheep? Tending those sheep grew within David a tender heart. A heart that would hear, perceive, and believe in the God of those rolling hills and dew-kissed pastures.

The coats Saul held as Stephen was martyred for his faith in Jesus? The burden of his past would shatter into a million glistening reflections of grace as forgiveness and purpose began to reign over Paul’s life.

Where are your scrawny sheep? Do you still feel the weight of the coats you held? Do you see, even still, the disapproving look in that loved one’s eye as you innocently responded to the call of Jesus? Do you still hear in words left unsaid accusation and doubt?

Do you still find your Jesus-following feet entangled in the diminishing and dismissive judgements around you? Within you?

Me too.

We will never see the end-zone, live our own gloriously messy plan, if we live diminished. Half-way. An almost life.

What if David’s story…his crazy, no pausing to analyze, I’m going for it life…is alive in black script on thin white pages so we can do the same? So we can be  free and encouraged?

What if God is not looking for those held in highest esteem, those most qualified or those most confident and comfortable in their own skin? What if He never asks the opinion of your mother, father, sister, brother, pastor of bff?

What if really and truly, He has yet to ask your own opinion?

I know I’m done if it really has to matter what I think of me. I quit yesterday. Write a blog? Pour out my heart? Make it all count?

Not if it’s contingent on my opinion. Or yours.

Perhaps this is why David could ignore Eliab. It’s why he ran full-throttle with a few stones and a sling shot. It’s why his story goes on and on and on and touches the world.

Just maybe this is why Paul could set sail. Preach and write and teach in spite of who he had been and all he had done. It’s why the New Testament goes on and on and on and touches the world.

Their diminished capacity to care what others thought of them. What even they thought of themselves.

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