I wonder if David ever thought about going back to being a shepherd.
I feel like when we think about his story, we always focus on two parts: the pasture and the palace. We start with him killing the lion, the bear, and the giant, and then fast forward to him being crowned king of Israel.
But I think we do David a grave disservice when we skip over his messy middle.
Everyone wants to forget the fifteen year waiting period he had to endure between being anointed king, and actually being the king.
He wasn’t sitting on the side knitting or doing yoga while he waited on King Saul to gracefully retire, he was on the run, terrified, preserving his life, and actively seeking Yahweh for direction every single step of the way. From the pasture to the palace David underwent a process that equipped him for his life’s purpose.
But I wonder if sometimes, late at night while all his misfit followers were fast asleep, David looked up at the stars and let the doubts and emotions he kept so carefully controlled flood his mind. I wonder if, while he gazed up at the blue-black canvas of the night sky speckled with light, he weighed the cost of his calling and came up just a little short.
I wonder if he took in the expanse of Yahweh’s heavens, felt the breeze caress his face, and breathed in as nostalgia washed over him. I wonder if the distant sound of bleating sheep or the silence of a summer night reminded him of what it was like to live in obscurity, in simplicity, in community with Yahweh, as a shepherd boy.
I wonder if he missed the solitude of working alone, the freedom to worship at will and pour out his heart unencumbered. I wonder if he missed the simplicity of life and the predictability of his days. I wonder if he missed the sweet ignorance of not knowing exactly who he was called to be, and what he was called to do.
I wonder if tears ever rolled down his face as he considered his circumstances: abandoned, hunted, lonely, exhausted. I wonder if he ever wanted to go back, even if just for a moment, to revert to a former, simpler version of himself. I wonder if he ever wanted to unknow, unlearn and unbecome.
All we have to do is read the Psalms to get an idea of how emotional and transparent David was in his worship and relationship with Yahweh, so I don’t think my musings above are incredibly far-fetched.
But I wonder because I think we look back so often. When we make a big life-change or decide to give Yahweh the hard yes, there’s usually a period where things aren’t exactly panning out the way we envisioned or hoped. Sometimes the season after transition looks like hard times, sometimes it looks like struggle. Sometimes we wonder if we heard correctly, or if we made the right decision. Sometimes we question ourselves and our paths, and sometimes we think about going back.
When the present seems a little too painful to bear, I think we have a natural propensity to pick the best of the pieces of a broken past, and ponder them just a little too long and a little too often. I think we think about going back when going forward is proving to be harder than we bargained for.
I think it’s a natural human proclivity, but I don’t think it’s something that can’t be unlearned. I think as our minds are renewed and the Holy Spirit speaks truth over us, we can overcome the thoughts of reversion with the absolute truth: that going back is no longer an option.
You see, as much as David may have thought about going back home, he couldn’t. Home was never really home for him, and when he left it was even less of a home.
That’s the thing about being tempted by the past in your present; it doesn’t tell you that everything looks better in hindsight. It doesn’t tell you that if you did decide to go back, it would be worse than it was before. It doesn’t remind you of why you left in the first place.
When we step out of seasons that no longer fit us, we allow ourselves to flex, stretch, and grow. When we give ourselves the room to embrace the new, and the permission to drop the old, it changes our shape. We literally no longer fit where we were.
So when we attempt to go back, we have to hurt ourselves to do it. We have to hack off the pieces of our souls that have grown in the transition from passive to purposeful, we have to limit our thinking in order to fit into the mold we broke through head first, we have to abandon the gifts and talents, revelations and Holy Spirit led observations we’ve made about ourselves and others because they can’t fit back there.
I have a word for someone who is considering abandoning the path to purpose and returning to their past: you don’t fit there anymore. You don’t fit in that relationship, in that career, in that country, in that school, in that lifestyle, in that mental prison, in that mode of thinking, in that society anymore. You don’t fit. There’s no place for you. There’s no lasting comfort or strength to be found in submitting to same in seasons of struggle. And as much as we might try to convince ourselves that we’re doing it for pure reasons, we almost always know deep down inside that we’re in reverse because we’re scared.
There is absolutely no way to go back without hurting yourself.
I know it doesn’t look the way you thought it would, I get it, believe me. I understand what it’s like to have a word from Yahweh about who you are and who you’re in the process of becoming, while you’re surrounded by circumstances that look absolutely nothing like what He’s said. I get it, David gets it, Yahweh gets it. He does.
Don’t allow the predictability of past pain stop you from moving forward in purpose. Resist the urge to entertain situations, conversations, relationships and environments that call forth a version of you you’ve outgrown. Don’t subject yourself to the smallness of your past, and don’t allow the lies you hear during seasons of pressing and pain to push you into settling for less than Yahweh’s absolute best for you.
We have to keep going, we have to keep pushing, just like David did. He made it to the palace eventually, and I bet the kind of king he was had a lot to do with the decision he made (again and again) to move forward in his messy middle.
Don’t give up, don’t go back. The best is always in front of you.