Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Deathbed advice and focus on the present

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NIV)

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.

“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ …”
With the new school year underway and a baby expected in the next 40 days or so, a lot of the focus around here is on new beginnings. It’s a comfort to be able to enter this season with stability in where we live, where we work, the cars we drive and so on, but the changes looming are going to be significant. So naturally, there’s a sense of the family just marking time until the actual upheaval starts.

But all that anticipation of what tomorrow (figuratively) holds is flipped on its head in light of the scene painted at the beginning of this chapter. King David, about whom I’ve been reading for weeks and weeks now on account of the lectionary, is on his deathbed and making solemn remarks to the son who will succeed him on the throne.

I don’t spend a lot of time picturing myself in David’s shoes here. Quite the opposite, I try to focus as much as possible on the present, hoping to make the most of the life I’m allowed to live this moment without worrying about going the way of all the Earth. Obviously that part is inevitable, but it’s far beyond my control.

Still, there’s something richly poetic about the way David speaks in this instance. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires.” This need not be delivered on a deathbed to be effective. “Walk in obedience.” I like to think of David as delivering these lessons to Solomon throughout his youth so what’s happening now is repetition for emphasis and not some last-minute revelation.

Perhaps I should be identifying more closely with the father as I read these sentences over and over, but I still see myself more as the son, hoping to soak up wisdom and realizing how much more I have to do in order to live up to the goals set forth. Yes, I want my children to be strong and act like men, but first I have to show them how that looks in real life.

We’ll all go the way of the Earth some day. Many won’t have the chance to leave final words of wisdom in David’s manner, so it’s best to make those feelings known during the robustness of life. And so I ask myself what my message should be to my children. What do I want them to learn from me? What kind of person do I hope each becomes? What am I doing to help get them there, and am I holding myself to those same standards?

These are common themes here, and it seems no matter how I start thinking about the big picture I end up at a strikingly similar narrow focus. Follow God’s lead for myself. Let my children see how that affects my life. Encourage them to discern how God may be leading them. Strive for mutual accountability. Be the dad they deserve and hope and pray they’ll grow to be twice the man I ever was.

These kids are a remarkable blessing, and I owe them everything I have in order to make them as ready as possible to take on life. I have the gift of many years still with them at home, but I can’t forget that window is not open indefinitely. It’s never a bad time to be a good influence.

A prayer for August 27:

Lord, teach me your way. Lead me in a straight path. Help me do the same for my children, that we may follow you together. I want so much to be a good example for them, but I know the best way to do that is to focus on my own walk in obedience and strength. I am trying to walk faithfully before you with all my heart and soul, for me and for them. I know I often stumble, and I rely on you to pick me up and set me back on the course. Lead me always. Amen.

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