Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Shimei Syndrome

One summer morning about 3:00 a.m. when I was coming off the lake, I docked my boat and started walking across the deck. Halfway down the pier-walk I heard a swoosh through the tall trees just to my right, followed by a loud splash in the water. I turned my two-million candlepower Q-beam to see what the ruckus was, "Probably a beaver," I thought to myself. My light scoured the water to see only the concentric circles of the splash, and then illumined the woods to my right. I wondered why something in the treetops would fall into the lake with such a splash. I'd seen that happen to a squirrel (Did you know that a squirrel can walk, er, run on water?) My second thought was "Maybe a coon." A few days before I had seen two male coons fighting in the treetops over a female, so I turned the beam upward but, again, my light showed nothing, so I continued my trek up the hill when, once again, something tore through the treetops to my right - swoosh - followed by a sharp rap as if it came from the house. The trajectory more than hinted that, whatever it was, traced my path, targeted me. Then I heard my walkie-talkie beep and Judy's alarmed voice, "Hal, something hit our house." Immediately another swoosh through the trees, and another, and I began to think that this must be a varmint of the two-legged kind, so I approached the edge of the woods and yelled, "Hey! Whoever that is, and whatever you're doing. Stop! I'm armed, and you'd better stop right now." It stopped. I continued to shine my Q-beam into the woods but saw nothing, so I went inside for the evening and went to sleep with one ear open.

The next morning I solved the mystery - golf balls - at least a dozen golf balls scattered over my yard. Looking to my neighbor's house in the vicinity where the projectiles must have originated, I didn't need Sherlock Holmes to tell me that the mini-SUV (not usually parked there) probably belonged to the grandson of our elderly neighbors (grandson, as in eighteen, strapping, and wild). I called - "Yes, our grandson is here" - I asked for the boy's father's telephone number, made the call, and he asked, "What did the golf balls look like?" - "distinct with a yellow circle around them," I replied; "Yep, that's my son alright; he got those at a driving range yesterday. Are you home now, sir . . . he'll be right there." Ten minutes later, the grandson and his raggedy buddy, along with the grandfather, were at my front door staring at my holstered .38 and apologizing. "You could have killed someone with a golf ball, you know," I said, "or gotten killed." Heads down like whipped dogs, they said, "I'm sorry." I doubted their sincerity, but I doubt they doubted mine.

King David once had a similar experience at Bahurim. David was in no mood to be tampered with, and he was not known for asking questions after the bother. He was also accompanied by a jittery band of the baddest dudes in Israel, their brazen swords barely dried from the crimson battle-bath. You'd think no one would mess with those guys. But fools do exist, and on that day the fool was Shimei. He was a real nobody, and had nothing better to do than to attack the man after God's own heart. Shimei's actions would be humorous if they were not so ridiculously stupid, and dangerous. Imagine the careless bravado, David and his mighty men arriving at Bahurim and tracking their horses along the snaky Jordan, when a swoosh comes through the air towards David. The horses probably flinched, and their riders' hands swiftly moved to the sword hilt. Swoosh again and again, swoosh, swoosh - plunk, plunk - splash in the Jordan. Then David's eye caught the source of the commotion - some fellow who lightly valued his life was throwing stones, throwing stones at swords, throwing stones at spears, throwing stones at stallions, throwing stones at battle-scarred warriors, throwing stones at the sovereign. What bravado? What idiocy!

Then he came out of the woods, on foot no less, picking up stones, throwing stones, and cursing all the way, cursing the king. At David's right hand was Abishai, and he was in no mood for antics or idiots; you remember Abishai: the one who put his life on the line to go behind enemy lines to steal water for his beloved king; Abishai, who wanted to drive his spear through the sleeping Saul; Abishai, the one who saved David from the giant Ishbi-benob and left his headless corpse a gargantuan feast for the vultures; Abishai, who commanded one-third of David's army; Abishai, who single-handedly killed 300 Arameans in one day's battle; yes, that Abishai was stirred up about this rock-chunking fool and said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head."

Good thing for Shimei that David knew an impotent fool when he saw one.

Stones and slurs trouble not the mighty.

We all have our Shimeis and thus, from time to time, experience the "Shimei Snydrome": people who criticize or despise or discourage or curse us, most of them not as brave and foolish as Shimei to show their faces; behind the back is their strategy.

I have seen and heard Shimei several times in my life - swoosh-swoosh, curse-curse - a co-worker, a superior, a neighbor, a false friend, maybe even a family member here and there - swoosh-swoosh, curse-curse.

I have also heard Abishai, at my right hand so to speak: "Who is that dead dog? Take off his head."

But the older I get, the more I think like David: "Let him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day."

We learn several things from King David about how to deal with our own Shimeis.

Just leave them alone and let the LORD deal with them, reminiscent of the text, "Hold your peace. The LORD will fight for you."

We also learn that our Shimeis are always within God's providential purpose for our lives - "For the LORD hath bidden him" - to teach us that the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but spiritual, and mighty through God to the bringing down of strongholds and Shimeis.

Surely we must also understand that the Lord Himself hears the swoosh and sees the stones, as David said, "the LORD will look on mine affliction."

And we also know that "all things," even Shimei's stones, "work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." As David said, "It may be that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day."

So the next time you hear the swoosh-swoosh of stones coming your way, see the pitiful ranting and raving of some Shimei, and feel Abishai rise up in your breast, think instead of the man after God's own heart, the powerful royal, the mighty warrior, David, who turned his ear from the swoosh, his face from the stones, and his wrath from the fool to look heavenward for Divine vindication. In other words, do what David did, leave Shimei to Solomon, leave your Shimeis to wisdom. In due season, even if you must wait until your deathbed, as David did, in due season wisdom will take care of your Shimeis.

And Shimei, if you're out there, just remember, before you pick up that stone, before you unbridle your tongue, just remember,

Curse not the mighty, for he is the father of wisdom,

and wisdom, his son, will visit you in due season.

"Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, . . . And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest unto him; but his hoary head bring thou down to the grave with blood. (I Kings 2:1, 8-9


The Militant Pacifist said...

This is a very hard lesson to learn!

Recently it has come to my attention that my personality is very reactionary. I’m often conflicted. I say, “my dog is not in this fight,” but then I suffer a violent emotional reaction when hearing the results of the latest canine brawl. Maybe this is “double-mindedness?”

Growing up where I did, at an early age I learned the law of the playground. You know, that age old law of human interaction that teaches - - you punch me, I’ll punch you twice as hard (and that will make you really think about punching me again)! Maybe it could be called, “Abishai’s law.” Seems like it worked really well in elementary school (I didn’t attend a “Christian” school).

With maturity, most folks learn that even though violence can solve a lot of problems, social restraint forbids it (at least in public). But, even though the outward violent reaction is suppressed, the inward pummeling often continues. The inner voice says, “I could beat the [you know what] out of you right now,” but the lips say, “hmmm…that’s interesting…I never thought of it that way.”

It seems that (the course of nature is) without analysis, without conscious thought – the reactionary way of thinking takes root and grows, entwining its creeping tendrils throughout our minds. The reactionary way of thinking becomes so interwoven in our minds that it becomes our “normal” way of reacting. No thought is required – it just happens.

Maybe reactionary thinking is probably not a problem, unless you are a Christian (who is supposed to “captivate” your thinking apparatus), or unless you decide that you really want to think deeply.

Aside from the inherent problem that reactionary thinking poses for the professing Christian, the reactionary foible is a detriment to truly depthful thought. When one thinks deeply, s/he becomes less interested in the presentation of an argument, and more interested in the substance of the argument. The reactionary thinker can never get this far; s/he is too busy winding up for the knock-out punch.

Another problem for the would-be depthful thinker is the temptation to take excessive intellectual pleasure from the exercise of stripping away the facetious rhetoric from an argument to show that there really was no substance, just a naked emperor. If too much pleasure is taken in this, it becomes nothing more than the law of the playground, pursued intellectually and writ large.

It seems that David suppressed his “reactionary urge” for a long, long time, and he had the wherewithal to wax Shimei any time he wanted to.

Maybe he had a really long-term outlook, but then, I guess that would be wisdom…

Hal Brunson said...


Your commentary is much better than the post.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled omn tour blog. great post.

Hal Brunson said...

Anon., we're glad you dropped by and "Welcome."