Last month, I opened the frontdoor to see the path sparkling. Not with snow but with little circles of silver and gold. A quick investigation revealed that these were indeed the contents of our advent calender - several weeks worth - eaten and then posted through the letterbox in an elaborate, if flawed, cover up effort. The inquiry quickly eliminated the two year old - unable to reach high enough. The other three people in the house flattly denied involvement, "it must've been someone else" - though one of them looked a little green, as one might, from consuming so much chocolate so early in the morning... the case remains unsolved.
I took it upon myself to offer some feedback to someone I was working with. A lengthy, detailed, picky piece of criticism. Met with a response: where do you get off saying stuff like that? We could query that response but the issue here is me. I began my defence, "If you consider my experience... and given what you did..." I backtracked a bit blaming circumstances "if you realise the pressure I've been under..." before finally falling on my sword "I was wrong. Sorry." Being wrong is one thing. Being found out for being wrong is a whole other thing. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Just make me disappear. (This was a decade ago, I hoped I've learned from this experience... though sin remains.)
And so to Saul (1 Samuel 13:8-14)- fearful and impatient and proud, Israel's first king assumed the office of priest and offered a sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel to come and do it. Then in perfect comic/tragic timing Samuel arrives. Wrong, and caught in the act. Quick, defend yourself. "It wasn't my fault. It was the people scattering, it was the enemy advancing, it was you not being here, it was God..." Like Adam, all over again.
Like Richard Nixon in the aftermath of Watergate, claiming: I always acted in the best interests of the nation. Saul claims to be the good guy. It'll cost him his throne.
Like Jose Mourinho blaming everyone else but not, in David Baddiel's words "taking a smidgin of personal responsibility" for the downfall of his title winning team. Though if the fault is with everyone else there's nothing more you can do, so the sack looms.
Like Sam Corey and Jim Giesick murderous con-artists who killed Patricia Albanowski for the insurance money and then characterised themselves as the victims rather than the perpetrators. You can't have people like that walking the streets.
My four year old, me, Nixon, Mourinho, Corey, Giesick, and Saul:
“People of the lie want to appear to be good people. They persistently refuse to tolerate a sense of sin, to take responsibility for their sin, to live with the sorrowful knowledge of it, and to pursue the painful way of repentance.” (Neal Plantinga)
Saul was a fool. A man who mistrusted his spiritual father Samuel, and mistrusted the LORD. But the moral of the story isn't don't be a fool. The Biblical story doesn't say don't be a fool, rather it offers salvation for fools, and the opportunity to feel a sense of sin, to take responsibility for it, to live in its sorrow, and to walk the painful path of repentance...
How? Because Saul isn't just an everyman, he was Israel's king. Their first king. They were ruled by Judges like Gideon, Samson, Deborah, and lastly Samuel. They said: Give us a king like the nations. And so they got the king they wanted - a handsome, powerful, giant of a man... not the king they needed. More Adam than Christ.
When Saul is on the throne, Masquerade rules. Everyone trys to look good but underneath the torrents of sin rage. As the king, so the nation. Saul must not continue to reign - a better king, one of God's heart must reign instead. When Christ is on the throne a wise king rules. One who has nothing to hide. Good through and through. Not an intimidating example, but a qualified substitute, a wise one to take the place of the fools, and bring them into his kingdom. One who allows the good sinner and the bad sinner to confess their sins in the safety of his atoning blood.
His kingdom is one in which vulnerability and authenticity and honesty about sin can happen. Those things are cool today but without Christ they're relational roulette for hipsters. Twenty three million people have watched Brene Brown's TED talk on Vulnerability over the past five and a half years. And it's good to be honest, but as Saul knew it's too dangerous when you don't have one you can trust to carry the weight of your sin... when you've got to make your own case for standing in this world cover-up is key.
Curiously, Brown's study of vulnerability led her back to Christ, and we'd be wise to follow the same path... to feel the sense of our sin and learn to walk as honest fools with the wise one. In him I find that I am wrong. In him I find that I'm found out - and yet, uniquely, am uttery safe.
IMAGE: Luca Rossato - Creative Commons