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Monday, October 4, 2010

Living Like Jonathan

Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. 1 Samuel 20:42

Every child with a Christian upbringing grows up listening to the story of David. According to the Bible, David was a feeble young man, who God used to accomplish great tasks. David was the youngest of his brothers, yet he killed a lion and single-handedly led to the victory of the Israelites in battle by killing Goliath. Israel was at the time being attacked by the Philistine nation, which had a mighty weapon-the giant Goliath. Every man in the army was terrified, but young David confronted the giant and saved Israel. Interestingly, the story of David does not strike a chord in my heart, as does the story of Jonathan, his best friend. His story is one I honor and deeply cherish, right from the time I did colorings of him in Sunday school, to the time I delivered my first sermon about him.

Jonathan was the son of the king of Israel, Saul. He also happened to be the best friend of his father’s primary enemy-David. David’s defeat of Goliath catapulted him to super-stardom, overshadowing the king’s. Filled with contempt for the spotlight that was on David, Saul set out to kill him. Jonathan, who ‘loved David more than he loved himself’, warned him Saul’s plans, thereby saving David from death. A power struggle ensued in the following years, resulting in the death of Saul and his entire household. David was established as king of all Israel. He did however, remember his friend Jonathan, and sought to find out if any of his family was still alive. Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s cripple son, was the only remaining member of the family, but David felt so much compassion for him on account of his father, that he invited him to eat at the king’s table all the days of his life. He also gave back to him all the land and servants of his grandfather, Saul. This story of love and karma is in many ways a reflection of my grund.

I am a middle child and I suffer from undiagnosed middle child syndrome. Some years back when my mother addressed a get-well-soon card to my sister, who had just had surgery, she forgot to write my name. I had always felt so forgotten that I learnt to work hard in school and get very good grades, which I believed, would attract my parents’ attention. My not so brilliant idea worked perfectly for years, until I realized that being in the limelight is not everyone’s destiny. My syndrome had surreptitiously spilled into every facet of my life, driving me ever so passionately to what I believed to be the ideal existence- a David in my own world.

The story of Jonathan has provided a source of solace for me throughout my life, albeit unconsciously. Growing up with him slowly sobered me into reality. When I colored a drawing of him in Sunday school, I didn’t know I was coloring the image of a man, whose life would lead to a defining moment in my own life. When I delivered a sermon about his life in my high school chapel, I knew then, that my life was slowly coming full circle.

Jonathan had a choice. He could betray his friend David and become king himself. It was his birthright after all. Yet he chose to remain true to their friendship, and his generation was rewarded for this act of faithfulness. Some of us were not born to be the stars, but to support the stars; to be faithful to them and steer them towards their destiny. I have encountered many stars in my short life, and my competitive spirit has had a very hard time accepting that I needed to be Jonathan to them. My obsessive desire to be the first in every examination was, in view of this fact, simply a product of my inner struggle for attention. What I needed to understand though, was that I could focus on helping others improve academically, and, in this respect, become like Jonathan.

Learning to live like Jonathan monumentally transformed my outlook on life. Of course I know that I do not live in 1000BC, and I have no Mephibosheth, who will come after me to benefit from my input in others’ lives. I am nevertheless filled with pleasure and peace when I consider that I can be, in essence, a musical note in someone’s symphony of life. My presence, I hope, will make the performance of that symphony, all the more fulfilling for him or her.

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