I read a book this week. A different kind of book than I normally read.
For most of the time that I have been an avid reader I have only wanted to read non-fiction books. I found fiction to be pointless. I always thought that if I was going to read I would want to make it worthwhile. I wanted to read something that would give me valuable information. And fiction didn't do that. Therefore, it was pointless.
I was wrong.
(Man, that was tough to write.)
I read a fiction book this week that taught me a lot. The book is by Cliff Graham and is entitled Day of War. It's brilliant. The book is a historical fiction novel based on the story of David and his mighty men. It takes the few chapters that mention these men and turns them into a 361 page book. He also has one more out in the series. And three more to come. As well as a movie trilogy produced by the guy that produced the Spider-Man movies. You can check it all out here.
I won't go through the entire story. If I did I'm afraid I would give you too much information and ruin your experience of reading it. And I'm not going to tell you everything I learned. That would take too much time. I'm pretty sure you don't want to stick around for a short book's worth of posts.What I will tell you is that the story follows the warrior Benaiah. And Benaiah, because of his past, struggles with forgiving himself. Every time he goes to war he thirsts for vengeance because of the things that happened to his family. He then comes away, almost every time, guilty because of his lack of control. He hates others, and God, and then comes away hating himself. It's a constant struggle.
Toward the end of the story, during the last battle, David and Benaiah have a short conversation. In the heat of the moment, a moment filled with rage, Benaiah unexpectedly poured out to David his anger toward God. A few sentences later, torn with guilt, Benaiah says, "I fear that Yahweh will never come to me again for what I have done..." David responds by saying, "I know, brother. I have not always walked with Yahweh either. I have left his council for my own paths and live with that every day. I want to blame myself for all of this," gesturing toward what was happening nearby, "but I know that is not what he wants. He only wants me to return to him..." (pg. 314)
For some reason, that simple truth seems to slip by me. But when it was wedged into an engaging story, it hit me hard. So often, I do what Benaiah did. I do something wrong and then spend the rest of the day beating myself up over it. But that's not what God wants. He paid the price for our sins so we don't have to. When we do that, it's like saying "You know what, God. I know you died for me and all, but that doesn't quite seem like enough. I think that I need to punish myself for it a little while longer. You aren't supposed to forgive me yet."
We are rejecting God when we don't forgive ourselves. It's like we are taking his forgiveness and throwing it in in his face. He says that we are worth it and can have forgiveness and we are telling him that He's wrong. We don't believe Him.
By doing what Benaiah did, we are essentially trying to make up for our rejection of God by rejecting God. We are trying to pay for our selfishness by thinking more about ourselves. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that “humility is not thinking more of yourself or less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.
It may surprise you, but your past does decide your worth... But, when looking at your past, you need to look at the whole thing. You need to go back another two thousand years, to the cross. That's the part of your past that decides your worth. You can't pay for your sins by beating yourself up. You can't pay for your sins at all. God already did.
Do what David told Benaiah in the story. Stop blaming yourself and just return to God... Don't focus on your sins. Focus on your Savior.
What fiction books have you read that you have learned something great from?