Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
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And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily. And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt. And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.
— 1 Samuel 24:4-6
Throughout their friendship, David has done all in his power to make Saul love him. He has been honourable, loyal, kind and even servile. He has fought for Saul, entertained him, comforted him when Saul's spirits were low. David has been like a son to Saul—and Saul has been an abusive parent to David, displeased, angry, and threatened by his very presence.1 Nothing David can do is enough, and finally David is driven away from Saul's court, forced to live in the wilds (and later even as a refugee among the Philistines) and fleeing for his life. It is one particular moment when Saul is, once again, hunting David down to end his life that he pauses to rest in a cave where David and his men happen to be hiding. David's men see this as a gift from God, that David should kill Saul and take the kingdom. There is nothing to stop David except his conscience, and again, his faith. He stays his hand.
The story of Saul and David's relationship is the story of abusive parenthood, and how the child of such a parent does all they can to make the parent love them. But whether that abuse is physical, mental or emotional nothing the child does can create such love. Such children forgive time after time, they excuse neglect, violence and all manner of offensive behaviour, even to the point where their own life is threatened. So vital to a young life is the love and approval of a parent that many go to extraordinary lengths to fake its existence, without a shred of evidence, only hope.
David is symbolic of the forgiveness we all carry in our hearts, even for those who barely seem worthy of it. We each carry such forgiveness, but we easily forget we have this capacity, falling all too often into blame, contempt and violence towards those that wrong us. In David the capacity for love and forgiveness was acute. The small harm that David did to Saul—cut his robe instead of kill him—is still more than he can bear, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed. Would that I had a tenth of that compassion, a hundredth part of that honour, I would consider myself blessed.
1 The story of Snow White and her step mother is another well-known example of the abusive parent/loving child narrative. It's a theme that occurs in the folk tales of many cultures.