When David went out on the field to deliver lunch to his older brothers that day, he decided to fight a giant instead. I get that. Sometimes, something must be done. And if it can’t be done by those who are smarter, stronger and more talented, then that leaves me. I understand being foolish enough to square up against a giant. That comes naturally.
What shocks me is not his choice to fight, but the way he rejected proven armor. When Saul, King of Israel, saw that this child was determined to go on the battlefield, he generously offered David his armor. The armor of a King—the greatest and strongest technology, guaranteed to protect and equip warriors. But David’s thirst for foolishness had yet to be quenched, so he said no to the armor. He chose to walk onto that field vulnerably. He entered the battle without anything covering up his weakness, with nothing to hide behind, nothing to protect his fragile skin. He rejected the armor and gloried in his weakness. That I don’t understand.
I understand covering up with Saul’s armor. I understand doing what must be done—but doing it with relentless excellence. Working hard and harder and harder still. You might fail, but no one must be able to say that you were lazy. I understand being busy. I understand to-do lists. I understand pressure and exhaustion and covering up guilt and shame with a patina of excellence. I understand ‘you have to suffer to be beautiful.’ I understand atonement through ceaseless labor. I understand walking on to the battlefield, but only after I’ve covered my feebleness with Saul’s armor. I understand hiding my shame.
But David’s boldness was matched only by his holy unselfconsciousness. He was unashamedly weak. And in his weakness he slew a giant, using only one of his five small stones and all of the spirit of the Lord that rested upon him.
These last ten days, I’ve been haunted by the beauty of a dying woman’s song. The state of Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner last Tuesday night for the crime of murder. While she did not physically pull the trigger, she was guilty of planning her husband’s murder. It is a guilt that she never sought to deny. With her last breath she spoke of her deep love for her children and her hope that her death would bring comfort to her husband’s family. And then, as they injected poison into her veins, she sang Amazing Grace.
It’s not what we expect to hear from a dying murderer. We expect her to grovel, to wail with shame, to prove to the watching world that she’s learned her lesson by writhing with self-loathing.
But Kelly knew she was far more than the worst thing she’d ever done. She didn’t deny her past, she magnified her weakness because it was through her brokenness that the glory of Christ was exalted. She was accepted by God—and she accepted that acceptance. She became, by the grace of God, a different woman. She knew redemption, not in theory but in her own flesh.
And she died singing Amazing Grace. What was she but a martyr? One who lost her life as she bore witness to the holy strength of God’s cleansing redeeming blood. She died armorless, fighting shame and death with a song. And while she lived she refused to cover up. She understood that she didn’t have to deny the full truth of herself to glorify God. In fact, God’s strength was made perfect in her weakness. She was a murderer (like Moses, like David, like Paul), and she was also called and equipped to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a weary world. She was unashamed to be weak and broken, to be a murderer saved by grace. Her death was a tragedy, but her life was a holy victory.
David and Kelly both mastered the lesson I am still learning. Unlike Adam and Eve, they refused to hide or cover shameful parts of themselves—they displayed their full humanity to the watching world. Because faith in Christ means we never deny or disguise our sinful broken selves, but glory in our weakness—trusting that God’s amazing grace is the only armor we ever need.
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