Friday, June 24, 2005

A Tale of Two Funerals

Samuel was the last judge of Israel in the Old Testament. He was also called a seer and prophet, and his life marks a major transition in the history of God's people. After the people reject God's leadership, Samuel is called upon by God to anoint a young man named Saul to be their first king. God's desire to create a people unlike any other -- a people who stand on equal ground before their Ruler and God -- a people who will be a beacon of light in an otherwise dark world -- a people marked by generosity and care for the marginalized -- God's dream of forming a community through whom he could bless the entire world is momentarily put on hold.

When Samuel dies, the people mourn. They weep because they knew the spiritual water level receded a little without him. They wept tears of gratitude because of his passion for God, courageous leadership, fiery honesty, his love and devotion for them. The wept because of the man he had been.

A few chapters later, Saul dies, and when he does the people weep again. But this time they have to be commanded to weep. They don't really mourn the loss of Saul as much as they mourn the man he could have been -- the man he never became. He was 30 years old when he became king. He was tall and strong and full of so much potential. He was humble and stood head and shoulders above everyone else. The Spirit of God came upon him, and he was beautiful to behold. So much promise. So little to show for it.

He didn't set out to be evil. But bit by bit, choice by choice he just drifted for 42 years allowing his anxiety to get the best of him time after time. Anxiety becoming fear becoming paranoia becoming envy becoming hatred. In the end he takes his own life and dies estranged from his family and from the God who made him king. He had been out looking for donkeys when God interrupted his life with this amazing opportunity. And Saul threw it away because he would not surrender his anxious heart to God.

What might have been? What might the nation have become? That's why the people mourn.

I did my grandfather's funeral yesterday. And I've been thinking a lot lately about my own mortality. That's what funerals do, right?

I've been wondering: When I die, will people weep for the man I was or for the man I never became?