David: The Illustrated Novel by Michael Hicks Thompson

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The Unvarnished Truth

David: The Illustrated Novel; Illustration by Dean Zachary“May the Lord therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you." When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, "Is this your voice, my son David?" Saul lifted up his voice and wept. —1 Samuel 24:15-16

Of all the stories about the numerous, and often treacherous, encounters between Saul and David, this perhaps is the most powerful and poignant. David and his men are huddled in a cave, hiding, as they have for years, from the unrelenting bloodlust Saul has for his perceived enemy. To their astonishment, they see the Israelite king enter the cave and bend to relieve himself. Saul is completely vulnerable and alone, unable to readily defend himself should he be attacked. Yet, despite his men’s urgings, David does not harm the unprotected king. He crawls forward and cuts off a corner of his cloak as evidence that he was close enough to strike and yet refrained.

In the speeches that follow, David defends his intentions, saying that he will never raise his hand against Saul, and asking that God be his judge. In response, the rage and paranoia that have clouded his sight dissolve, and Saul for once perceives his situation clearly. What he sees breaks his heart. All his malevolence is swept away by a flood of regret. He knows now, at a conscious level, that David is the righteous one who has repaid evil with good and will be rewarded with the kingdom of Israel.

We wonder about this sudden clarity after so much distortion and depravity. What could have pulled the warped lens of hatred from Saul’s eyes? The change takes place when David eschews the opportunity to counter violence with violence and instead shows forbearance and mercy toward the tortured king. Faced with the undeniable truth of his situation, Saul’s worldview crumbles. There is no more pretense. Saul sees himself for who he has become. David too is stricken, troubled by the real peril of what might have been. As Bruce Birch points out in The New Interpreter’s Bible, “[David] must look squarely at the possibility of violence within himself. He quails at what he sees, for violence is closer to the surface than most are forced to recognize or admit.”

Saul and David have chosen their paths and will continue forward until each has met his destiny. Yet they now travel with eyes open, Saul aware of the horrible misjudgments and atrocities he has committed, and David aware of what he could do with the power that will be his.


We all have this propensity to be two things at the same time: blind yet wise; life-loving and death-dealing; dark hustlers and stand-up guys. We want to have it all, be it all, but we can’t. One side will eventually win. And no matter who it is, we’ll be left with a shiver as we’re forced to acknowledge the brokenness and beauty we are, and all in the same breath.

Torey Lightcap
from Dark Men Brooding


In nonviolence you must go full steam ahead, if you want the good to come speedily you must go about it with vigor. —Vinoba Bhave


You desire truth in the inward being;  therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. —Psalm 51:6


If I am to let my life speak things I want to hear, things I would gladly tell others, I must also let it speak things I do not want to hear and would never tell anyone else! My life is not only about my strength and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for “wholeness” is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of. …

—Let your Life Speak by Parker Palmer 
Read more on Knowing Who You Are


As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility. — Nelson Mandela

Gracious God, as I go to bed ready to close my eyes in sleep, I think of all the things I wish I had not said, had not done. I offer those to you with sorrow, and pray that you will wrap them in your blanket of forgiveness. Thank you for this day, for all that has been done, and even for all that has been left undone. Let me rest now in your peace. Amen. A Prayer of Remorse 


...You cannot talk of grace without talking of evil and vice versa. These are twin concepts. How do you show how grace is present in the world? Who are the courageous ones among us? The loving ones? What odds do we overcome to remain faithful, loving? Yes, I agree with [Flannery] O’Connor that sometimes you need to shock people into seeing these things. Sometimes gentle reminders would not do. —from an interview with Uwem Akpan 

An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.— Mahatma Gandhi

“Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matt. 5:39). If this were an invitation into total pacifism as some have read, then Harry [Potter] would be sunk and hopeless. But this verse has also been rendered, “Don’t react violently against the one who is evil” (Scholar’s Version). Nietzsche, quoted by Walter Wink, puts it even more succinctly: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

Torey Lightcap
excerpted from a review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace.—Zechariah 8:16 NRS


Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals. —Martin Luther King Jr.


"...and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."—John 8:32