Read about the life of David and it’s as rich as any drama in history. From his humble beginnings to the corruptive power of lust and entitlement and the way it propels him into adultery and murder – it’s a powerful story, and there is a rich resonance to any human, if we look at it in context. The larger arc pulls us into an examination of human relationship with God; forgiveness and favor, repentance and redemption.
But this morning I’m thinking mostly of the moment somebody gave David the last ten percent.
Around my workplace, we use the phrase ‘last ten percent’ to indicate that we’re going to do some truth-telling. The idea, pulled from Patrick Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunctions of a Team (which is fundamental to the DNA of our work culture), is that most folks share the first 90% easily.
You did a great job! Thanks for your hard work! I love this idea! We appreciate you!
It’s the last ten percent that is often left unsaid.
You did a great job! But you missed the deadline.
Thanks for your hard work! Can you tell me why you didn’t do the follow-up tasks we agreed upon?
I love this idea! But it’s just the not the right fit for this project.
We appreciate you! But you’re late to every meeting.
Nobody likes the last ten percent – but it’s essential to have clarity. It’s authentic. And most of all – it builds trust. It is essential to authentic relationships and a healthy workplace, and I have come to believe that it is an important foundational key to our understanding of ourselves at a deep, soul level.
So David, a powerful king, indulges his lust for another man’s wife. He sleeps with her. She gets pregnant. He secretly arranges for her husband to die in battle so that their secret will be safe. He apparently gets away with it all.
And then, as the scripture says, God was not pleased with what David had done, and he sent Nathan to David.
Nathan tells David a long story about a rich man who took obvious advantage of a poor man to indulge his desires. David hears the story, is appropriately indignant, and declares that the rich man ought to be punished.
Nathan gets right up in David’s face and says, YOU ARE THE MAN!
And there’s the last ten percent.
The truth came out. Things went from bad to worse in terms of suffering and pain, but the truth was on the table. David owned his misdeeds, accepted the consequences, and life went on.
This morning I had a ‘YOU ARE THE MAN’ moment with a short four pages of text. To preface: Because of my line of work, and because of my propensity to want to teach and help and encourage pretty much everyone in the world, and – true confession – because I can get a bit judgy at times, when I read things or learn things or discover things, my immediate first response is generally some form of OH HOW CAN I TELL HER THIS? IT’S JUST WHAT SHE NEEDS. HOW CAN I SHARE THIS WITH THE WORLD? THIS WILL BE SO HELPFUL! HE REALLY NEEDS TO HEAR THIS.
I refrain from being too judgy with my own self, because this is – mostly – a noble response. It’s the teacher in me. But I know that I have to be careful, because too often, in my desire to save the world, I can overlook the message meant for me.
I couldn’t escape today.
To set it up, I must tell you that after a good, strong month of clean eating – #Whole30 – I have loosened the rules for my food intake a bit. It’s a challenge, because what I’ve learned via #Whole30 is that probably 90% of my eating has to do with my brain and my emotions. That’s what the entire process was about for me – discovering just how deep the connection is between the emotional satisfaction I assign to the consumption of food and the lengths to which I will go to not only consume that food, but justify it.
Anyway, I have loosened the rules, because I am focusing on a few other important things and I need the margin that has been occupied by food vigilance. Plus, my allergies are killing me, and only ice cream makes me feel better (see also: JUSTIFICATION). So, Tuesday night we had Mexican food, and the chips were flying. Thursday I had ice cream. Yesterday, I had a sugary concoction from Starbucks, and that set the synapses in motion. I was craving thick, heavy comfort food all day long.
We decided that date night would be take-out and a movie in; he said, Call Nino’s and order me a chef salad. That’ll be enough for me tonight. So I called, and I ordered him a salad, and I ordered baked penne, and to just cut to the chase, I ate it all.
Every last noodle, every lick of gooey cheese.
And then I sat with two pounds of pasta in my gut and felt horrible; not like I was beating myself up mentally, but seriously – I felt sick to my stomach. And while Hacksaw Ridge cast its violent shadow across our tv screen, I asked myself, Why? Why do you do this? And I knew the answer was simple.
Because I can.
When we had four kids under the age of five, living on the kids’ dad’s part-time youth minister salary, spending the majority of our grocery budget on diapers – there was no room for indulgence. No such things as, Oh, I feel like pork chops tonight – I’m going to run to the grocery store. No impulsive stops at Dairy Queen for Blizzards. No thought of indulging that taste for Cheetos or bacon or chocolate chip cookies or lime Tostitos.
It wasn’t an option.
Fast forward a quarter century and there is room for indulgence. We are by no means wealthy, but the grocery budget expanded and most any minor whim can be accommodated. And because I can justifies a good many impulsive behaviors. On the surface, not such a bad deal – isn’t that why we work hard?
But on the other hand, there is much going on in the emotional landscape of such indulgences; and a good bit of it causes enough discomfort that I would rather look away.
Rather than continue to over-explain, I am going to simply post the entirety of today’s reading here. It was my Nathan moment; as I read each paragraph thinking What shall I share of this today? Who needs to hear it?, I felt a slow dissolution of that perspective to the pins and needles of my own personal resonance. Not just about food; about everything. All the things. And me.
By the time I got to the end, it was obvious; but to accentuate the point, four words floated up into my consciousness:
YOU ARE THE MAN.
Lord, have mercy.
Barbara Cawthorne Crafton
We didn’t even know what moderation was. What it felt like. We didn’t just work: we inhaled our jobs, sucked them in, became them. Stayed late, brought work home – it was never enough, though, no matter how much time we put in.
We didn’t just smoke: we lit up a cigarette, only to realize that we already had one going in the ashtray.
We ordered things we didn’t need from the shiny catalogs the came to our houses; we ordered three times as much as we could use, and then we ordered three times as much as our children could use.
We didn’t just eat: we stuffed ourselves. We had gained only three pounds since the previous year, we told ourselves. Three pounds is not a lot. We had gained about that much in each of the twenty-five years since high school. We did not do the math.
We redid living rooms in which the furniture was not worn out. We threw away clothing that was merely out of style. We drank wine when the label on our prescription said it was dangerous to use alcohol while taking this medication. “They always put that on the label,” we told our children when they asked about this. We saw that they were worried. We knew it was because they loved us and needed us. How innocent they were. We hastened to reassure them: “It doesn’t really hurt if you’re careful.”
We felt that it was important to be good to ourselves, and that this meant that it was dangerous to tell ourselves no. About anything, ever. Repression of one’s desires was an unhealthy thing. I work hard, we told ourselves. I deserve a little treat. We treated ourselves every day.
And if it was dangerous for us to want and not have, it was even more so for our children. They must never know what it is to want something and not have it immediately. It will make them bitter, we told ourselves. So we anticipated their needs and desires. We got them both the doll and the bike. If their grades were good, we got them their own telephones.
There were times, coming into the house from work or waking early when all was quiet, when we felt uneasy about the sense of entitlement that characterized all our days. When we wondered if fevered overwork and excess of appetite were not two sides of the same coin – or rather, two poles between which we madly slalomed. Probably yes, we decided at these times. Suddenly we saw it all clearly: I am driven by my creatures – my schedule, my work, my possessions, my hungers. I do not drive them; they drive me. Probably yes. Certainly yes. This is how it is. We arose and did twenty sit-ups. The next day the moment had passed; we did none.
After moments like that, we were awash in self-contempt. You are weak. Self-indulgent. You are spineless about work and about everything else. You set no limits. You will become ineffective. We bridled at that last bit, drew ourselves up to our full heights, insisted defensively on our competence, on the respect we were due because of all our hard work. We looked for others whose lives were similarly overstuffed; we found them. “This is just the way it is,” we said to one another on the train, in the restaurant. “This is modern life. Maybe some people have time to measure things out by teaspoonfuls.” Our voices dripped contempt for those people who had such time. We felt oddly defensive, though no one had accused us of anything. But not me. Not anyone who has a life. I have a life. I work hard. I play hard.
When did the collision between our appetites and the needs of our souls happen? Was there a heart attack? Did we get laid off from work, one of the thousands certified as extraneous? Did a beloved child become a bored stranger; a marriage fall silent and cold? Or, by some exquisite working of God’s grace, did we just find the courage to look the truth in the eye and, for once, not blink? How did we come to know that we were dying a slow and unacknowledged death? And that the only way back to life was to set all our packages down and begin again, carrying with us only what we really need?
We travail. We are heavy laden. Refresh us, O homeless, jobless, possession-less Savior. You came naked, and naked you go. And so it is for us. So it is for all of us.
Barbara Hawthorne Crafton – from Bread and Wine