You have got it made. You’ve just been told you’re going to be the top dog, the big cheese, the man in charge very soon. It is destiny, and no one can take it away from you. You have all the backing in the world behind you, and now all you have to do is patiently wait your turn.
That is, until the acting boss decides he doesn’t want to give up his seat. Because of what he knows about you and your future, he decides you’re the biggest threat to his position. He knows you need to be taken out of the picture, so he decides to chase you down and kill you. You know that, though, so you go on the lam and engage in a tense game of cat and mouse for the next several years. The boss has enemies of his own, however, and they eventually take him out, clearing the path for your triumphant return.
Or picture this: You’re living in a really, really bad town. I mean, bad to the point where you’re told by someone in the know that you’re the only good person left there. So this person gives you a tip that some nasty stuff is about to go down, and you had better start making preparations for you and your family to escape. You heed his warning and put everything else on hold while you create a safe haven.
There’s only one catch, though: No one else in the town is going to make it out alive. Even if they come banging on your door for help, you’re told to not let them in; this is the way it has to be. As everything hits the fan, you can hear them dying outside – men, women, children, neighbors, friends. You have your instructions; you have to carry them out. When you emerge, all the people outside of your family that you knew are gone.
I know if I were placed in either of these situations, I would emerge more than a little traumatized. I would definitely never be the same. I might even go kinda nuts and make some poor decisions down the road. I would also probably garner some sympathy, though. The people who knew everything I went through would wonder how I held it together as well as I did, and when I flubbed up, hopefully at least one of them would call me on it and try to get me some help.
Thing is, those two scenarios actually did happen. They happened to two men almost every one of us learned about in Sunday School – David and Noah. Most people are familiar with the good stuff: David killed Goliath and was a “man after God’s own heart,” and Noah loaded his family and two of all the animals on Earth onto a giant ark to maintain a remnant of life after the great flood. Nine times out of ten, these are the stories we remember … but they’re only a part of the picture.
David’s failings later in life are probably more well-known than Noah’s, mainly because of his affair with Bathsheba. Noah, however, wound up drunk and naked in a cave, a state you would not expect to find the last righteous man on the planet in. Even when these stories are recounted, however, they are rarely with any kind of sympathy. The question always arises: How, after everything God had done for them and all the miracles they had seen, could they act in such despicable ways? How could they be so stupid?
I once heard a sermon that brought up the possibility that the Apostle Paul should not have gone to Jerusalem. After all, he was warned several times by others not to go there, and the eventual result of his trip was being taken to jail. I’m not sure if I agree with this take on the scripture or not, but the very possibility of it brought an interesting thought to my mind: People in the Bible were human beings just like you and me. They got ticked off. They got depressed. They were burned out, stressed out, and put out. Some had touchier tempers than others. Some were stubborn. I might not have been friends with all of them.
We have this tendency, though, to build these people into caricatures. They couldn’t possibly have experienced something like PTSD in those days … even though the Bible is full of wars and acts of violence. They could be depressed … even though their loved ones died, their cities were destroyed, and their prayers didn’t quite turn out the way they expected. They couldn’t have been anxious … even though Jesus made it a special point to caution them not to be anxious. These people weren’t perfect; they were normal human beings, just like you and me.
Instead of diminishing them in my eyes, this way of looking at the names in the Bible made them more relatable to me. The way God viewed them suddenly didn’t seem unattainable to me, as it had in the past. It also taught me to be less judgmental, realizing that God could actually still love a Christian in the midst of them falling apart. And, finally, it gave me hope in knowing the battles that go on in our heads today are nothing new to God. They’ve been there throughout time.
What I don’t understand is why God seems to deal differently with mental illness today than He did in biblical times, but that is another topic for another day. I only have so much time to write. I’m only human, you know.