Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 20:1-42, 1 Samuel 21:1-15, 1 Samuel 22:1-23, Psalm 34:1-3, Matthew 10:34-39
I don’t know if it’s because I’m the daughter of a Navy Captain, or because my heart beats to the rhythm of the tides, but I feel most settled at the ocean. Recently, on an early morning walk, I remembered a line from a poem I wrote in sixth grade: “the waves jump up and hit my face / in and out, like fancy lace…” Relentless and submissive, joyful and with full abandon, the waves come and serve themselves to the shore. They do not pause several hundred feet out to decide whether or not they should move forward.
If only making decisions came so easily for me.
Granted, it’s their ontological design, so there’s that. But I still long for a simple, clear confidence of direction when making difficult decisions—especially relational ones that cause me to choose one loyalty over another. Or when things are simply inconvenient and I know the consequences will be costly. I confess I find it easier to hover out from the shore rather than risk crashing on the wrong one.
I admire the clarity of mind Jonathan displays in 1 Samuel. Early on, he’s presented with a tangled, messy, relational situation, yet Jonathan honors his commitment to David without hesitation, promising, “Whatever you say, I will do for you” (1 Samuel 20:4). Boom. I can almost hear the splash and feel the spray on my face.
In that split second, Jonathan has committed to protect his friend David from his own father, King Saul. In doing so, he helps to preserve a kingship, which ultimately results in the Messiah’s arrival and our own salvation rescue. Jonathan couldn’t have known the long-range significance in the moment, or what the ultimate cost of such a commitment would be (1 Samuel 31). But he did know the next right thing to do, and he did it with moral clarity and a clear conscience.
My decisions aren’t usually life-and-death, and the accompanying narrative is not nearly as dramatic. But when it comes to decision-making in my own life, I’ve experienced the tension between relational loyalties and moral clarity in more ways than I can count.
Take the other night—a somewhat trivial, but practical example. We were sitting in our courtyard, as our neighbor’s two small dogs continued to bark… at 11 o’clock… pm.
It’s not a new issue for us; there have been conversations, requests, and reminders. We could’ve very easily called the police to come issue a citation. It would even be morally appropriate to do so. But I happen to know our neighbor is an older, divorced woman who lives alone, and those two dogs are her family. I also know she would nearly die if the police showed up at her door. So after hesitating for about 20 minutes, I texted her a kind but firm request that she bring her dogs inside since it was so late. She did, and the next day she sent me a heartfelt text of apology.
Long-range significance? I’m not sure, except that she knows we pastor a church and pray for her regularly. But I do know it’s better to extend grace and compassion—overlooking my own temporary inconvenience—rather than risk whatever potential kingdom fruit may come from our relationship.
Many decisions cost far more than this small disturbance in our neighborhood. But even in the small things, God is teaching me about His presence in all things. When my choices are guided by what will bring glory to God and grow fruit for His kingdom, the decisions come more easily, and with quicker clarity. As Jesus Himself tells His disciples in the last part of Matthew 10:39, whenever we lose our life for His sake, we will find it in Him.
Perhaps there is a rhythm to be found here yet—like the waves.
Kim Thomas is a painter, author, and the Curate at The Village Chapel in Nashville, Tennessee, where she and husband Jim call home. Together they were called to start the church in February of 2001. Her undergrad studies were in art while her graduate degree is in theological studies. Kim has written 5 books and paints in the Japanese medium of Nihonga. The abstract work allows for a slow interaction between artist and materials. When asked how would you describe an ideal day… “Words and images without words—that’s a perfect day’s work.”