What does King David have to say to creative writers? by SC Skillman
King David, one of the greatest characters in the the Old Testament, is renowned as an individual with profound valleys and lofty mountain peaks in his life.
He began with a humble life; he was a shepherd boy. Then he found early triumph. As a youth he defeated the Philistines in the person of their champion, the giant Goliath, by killing him with a single stone shot from his sling into the giant's forehead.
Later on he became recognised above all his brothers and was appointed King over Israel. A man with a special relationship with God, he had reached the mountain peak, you may say. Then, with all power and wealth and honour in his hands, he did something appalling, something that you would think was unforgiveable. Lusting after a good man's beautiful wife, he arranged for the husband, Uriah the Hittite, to be sent away from the vineyard that was his sole livelihood to the front line in the war they were currently fighting, and be killed, just so he could take the beautiful woman, Bathsheba, for himself. And he also stole his vineyard.
Then a prophet called Nathan told him a story about a very rich man stealing a lovely pet lamb from a poor innocent man to whom the lamb meant the world. He asked David his reaction to the story and David was outraged. He said he would kill the man; it was such a terrible thing to do. Nathan replied that it was a metaphor and it stood for what he, David, had done with Uriah and Bathsheba.
David was distraught. He had been faced with the truth of his own behaviour and he spent a considerable time in total anguish. He threw himself on the floor and fasted and was wretched for a long time. When his son was born and grew ill he pleaded with God that the child might be saved, in the most heartrending manner. But it was no good; the son that Bathsheba bore him died.
King David was crushed in spirit but turned to God in his grief and wretchedness.
Further down the line King David wrote a Psalm which many must count as their favourite, number 51: 'Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.... against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight....'
Without necessarily comparing ourselves to great figures in the Old Testament, there is no doubt that we can take tremendous inspiration from them. Apart from the over-arching narrative of God's grace, forgiveness and our redemption, David's story has a special message for creative writers.
Every aspect of our lives has rich potential for our novels, our poetry, plays, articles or whatever genre we write in. Novelist Margaret Drabble remarked that fiction writers are good at 'turning personal humiliations and losses into stories ... they recycle and sell their shames, they turn grit into pearls'. Bad experiences and good, failures and humiliations: nothing is wasted, or lost. The creative life is full of God's grace.