Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tamar and the Tree

He was an angry man, but he spoke not of it.
When the assault came to his sister, he held himself steady, began plotting, and the poison grew roots.

The story of Tamar and Amnon and Absalom and King David, it's always been disturbing. Inked into history, it's an ugliness we'd rather skip over. But for Tamar, it could not be forgotten, it altered her world in unspeakable ways.
She was beautiful and pure, she'd followed the commands and dreamed of her royal days ahead. But her beauty was dragged through the mud of lust when her half-brother plotted to have her for his own. The sad story is found in 2 Samuel 13 and sinks its ugly claws all the way through the 2 following chapters.

Lovely, obedient Tamar, follows the directions of her father, King David. He asks her to go prepare food and serve her brother Amnon. Jonadab, Amnon's cousin, had helped him devise a scheme that would land unsuspecting Tamar in the bedroom of her lust-filled half-brother. She was innocent; she was a victim if there's ever been one. King David was unaware of the trickery his own son Ammon was tangling around him. Lust, greed, and selfish desires are often silent in the way they steal and kill.  But, such stealthy thieves destroy lives.

Amnon pled with his father the King to send his sister Tamar to care for him in his fabricated illness. After some questioning, the King agreed and sent his daughter Tamar to care for her brother. She obeyed. She went to Amnon, prepared bread and made his favorite dish. But when she came near to serve him, he grabbed her, dragged her into his bed and raped her. She begged him to stop, even offered that he could ask their father the king to allow them to marry if he must have her. But his lust and greed would hear none of her words. He took what was not his and changed her life forever. Then, moments later, his lust turned to hatred and he sent her away. His own guilt judged her and threw her away. It was a murdering of innocence, dreams, and trust.

Tamar tore her royal robes, put ashes on her head, and went away crying --- her face held in her hands.
But her brother Absalom saw her and asked if it was true that their own half-brother Amnon had raped her and then sent her away. She confirmed the story. Absalom told her to “keep quiet for now and not worry about it.” Absalom took the desolate Tamar into his own house and gave her refuge there with his family, it appears she remained there for the rest of her life. (Absalom's brotherly love for Tamar caused him years later to name his one and only daughter after her.)

Keep quiet --- don't worry...
and the venom did it's damage as toxins grew and plots formed. Absalom began falling.

Reading these words during my morning “reach-for-the-robe”, i raised my head midway through the painful story. I looked out the window beside me and saw a great tree just feet away. It was older than me as i can only imagine the number of rings we'd count if we could see its inside lines. Old tangled vines of poison ivy and briars clung to its bark, the tree was stronger than the vines, it grew unhindered by their grip. But on the side of the tree, right beside me, was a deep, long, ugly gouge that penetrated past its bark and dug into the unprotected pulp. Odd-it-may-sound but i was sad for the tree. I could relate to it, it was a visual in front of me of the way a life can be, my own or my friend's or my child's or yours.
We can do the things we know to do, work, love, serve, obey, try... just as the tree is doing the part it knows to do, grow. But things come along that cling to us and tangle themselves around us like the poison ivy and briars on the tree. Things like financial strain or sickness or betrayal or unfaithfulness where faithfulness should have been found.
There are times we do things that grow a vine around us and for those tangles we can only drop our heads and ask God to help us unweave our self-inflicted mess.We must choose a better way...
Then, there are times we do nothing to cause the strangling vines of pain laid against us.
We find ourselves wrapped in suffocating, clinging, entangling things that didn't come to us by our own hands but, much like Tamar, before we realized the strength of their claws, they were there, strong and unrelenting. And we become victims under the weight of pressures we didn't birth and feel helpless to wipe away.
We can endure much though; under the burdensome vines hanging on us, we can press on, to keep doing the part we know is ours to do. No matter what we're enduring --------- life still happens ------ the dishes must be washed and the paycheck must be earned. Work must be done, bills must be paid, floors keep getting dirty. And we, we will persevere. We were made stronger than we first realize, we learn it when vines get thicker and we keep growing stronger. God made His children in most amazing ways.

But then the deep gouges come, those uncontrolled rouge winds blow into our lives. They dig deep and leave us bleeding. We might not be bleeding on the outside, but our mind reels and our hearts hang in our throat.
If you don't have a gouge right now in your life -- thank God!
But don't be surprised when one day a rouge wind blows through and digs something deep into your rings of life.
If you do have a gouged out place in your world --- dare i say it --- can we bear to do it --- thank God...because HE IS WITH US and He is hard at work in the hardest places.
Even now, can you think of someone you love whose "side" has been dug out by something they neither asked for nor wanted.
Sometimes we are the "Tamar", the one wounded deeply; sometimes we are the Absalom, the one who loves and wants to protect the one whose bleeding beside us.
No matter the position we hold for the day, a Tamar or Absalom role, GOD knows what to do with the deep cuts, the rouge winds, the gaping gouges this world inflicts on those just trying to l-i-v-e.
The tree beside my window this morning weeeeeeeeps a sap flow that silently screams of the wrong inflicted on it.
The vines it could endure; the cut has gone too deep.

So it was for Tamar. The wrong done against her was more than she could bear and her pain gouged into the heart of Absalom as well. It was no “little” matter, it was not a vine that could be endured. It had changed her life, drained her dreams, and robbed her of all the hopes her obedience had held before her.
The sins of another dug their filthy claws into her purity; ashes came.
It's in the moments after the wounding our compass is thrown off. We find ourselves on a pathway different than the one we set our feet on under the rising sun of the morning.
And while the life-sap is weeping out of us, we are faced with intense decisions that all of Heaven lingers to hope over. For how we respond... will alter... much...

The tree beside me needs to be cared for, it needs to be covered where its insides are exposed.
The tree might have a chance of survival if someone would conceal its wound and seal what should not be exposed to air. But left uncared for, the weeping resin won't be able to hold back the attack of bugs. Those “flesh” eating bugs are waiting for the flow of resin to weaken enough for their biting mouths to tear into the tender insides ----- and they know ---- they are ready to kill.

Do we realize how very similar it works in our own lives?
We people, our insides are tender. While our outsides might be able to endure much, if we get gouged deeply, our ability to resist the attack is limited unless we cover ourselves in the right ways, with the right things. And those beside us, they must be careful to choose the right responses as well.

Tamar disappears in the story after we are told she hides herself away in her brother Absalom's home --- “she is desolute” it seems for the rest of her days. We don't know what she does to tend the wound.
But her brother Absalom, the one who stood beside her, we know what he did.
Just like the massive tree beside me, Absalom's wound was left exposed to things that will eagerly eat away at the tender-soul-flesh if they can.

Things like anger, bitterness, rage, and fury can lead to schemes and manipulations all working their way towards revenge and death.

Absalom did not go to God with the pain inflicted on his sister. He held it in his own hands and drew it into himself. And poison is poison no matter how it comes. Poison kills --- given a chance it will kill the heart of a person or the thoughts of a mind. It will alter the actions of our hands and warp the words of our mouths.

In this world we will have trouble... it's what our Father wants to be sure we know. But He also tells us not to fear, for HE has overcome this old world.

The tree beside me reminds, “in this world we will have trouble”. Something dug into it.
Things dig into our lives too?
For poor Tamar he own half-brother gouged out a ravine.
Her pain was so deep it dug into her brother Absalom.
It was not covered with a healing ointment from the Holy One,
it was not placed in the hands of the King.
Instead, Absalom began plotting ...
and two years later Absalom has his revenge.

He plans a celebration at his home inviting his father, King David, and all his brothers. David does not attend but the brothers do. And even before Amnon arrives Absalom gives instructions to his servants to wait until Amnon is drunk and then at his signal, kill him!
Two years of plotting. Two years of poison... preparing the way for death...
It was “bugs” eating into the “flesh” of exposed insides.

It's the way of the enemy of our Lord.
'Hurt them, hurt them deeply. Then work to distract them from obeying their Father, because if they obey Him, they're going to lay it in His hands and work to forgive the offender.
And if they F-O-R-G-I-V-E ---- then the poisonous-flesh-eating-bugs can't destroy them.
Forgiveness can't be defeated.
We want to hit them hard when they're down so they react. We want them to react in the flesh – in the very flesh we've just weakened. Don't give them time to pause, let the plotting thoughts come quick, make it sound logical and right, and start digging teeth in to their most tender insides ----- so the poison can destroy ---- them ---- those around them ---- everything.'

While the poison was festering in Absalom, the Lord was not being heard.
His ways were forgotten.
God's ways speak of trusting in the Lord, doing what we can and leaving the rest in His hands. To trust that HE IS A RIGHTEOUS JUDGE and HE WILL JUDGE. Nothing escapes His gaze, nothing is ignored.
Just because He doesn't act quickly, doesn't mean He isn't going to.
Remember His words ----- we are not to be afraid for HE HAS overcome the world.

Absalom grew bitter, he took revenge. And from that moment on, the reading of his life-story is sad and disappointing. For when the deep gouge came to his heart, he left the wound open to the “flesh-eating-bugs” and did not cover the gaping injury with the Robe of God.

It's not easy. Nothing in these words imply simplicity. It's the hard-work of LIVING. 

WHEN the wounds come (not if, when), we must be prepared to run to our Daddy-God, cry it all out to HIM, He hears His kids------ follow His ways, let the healing come from HIS great hands, and pray for the one who wounded us because ........ our healing comes right behind those prayers ---------
healing comes right behind prayers -----
healing comes behind prayers ----
healing comes in prayer ----
healing comes ----
The wrong that has been done to us (or those we love)
will be handled by the God who sees
and He will respond,
in HIS time ----
in HIS ways.
Our healing might precede His dealing with them.
People want to see justice first, and then embrace healing.
Not God.
He sometimes wants to heal first, and then punish the one who caused the pain.
And miraculously, sometimes God will heal the wounded and redeem the repentant wounder.
Only God can bring that kind of beauty from ashes.

Imagine how Absalom's life story might have been different IF he had cared for his sister while leaning in to God to avenge the evil choices of Amnon.
Absalom could have gone to their father, the king, and pressed for the law to demand justice.
Absalom could have gone to his father, the KING, and laid the rod of vengeance in the mighty hands of the One who knew exactly what needed to come to Amnon's door.
Poor Tamar. Poor Absalom. The healing work of trusting God and forgiving others and covering over the wrongs done against them and praying ... they never felt that great flood of Heaven's healing.
It's a painful read --- those next chapters. Absalom had sons, but it is believed they all died at a young age. Tamar was never spoken of in the scriptures again. The toxins that flooded Absalom did not stop at the death of Amnon, it poisoned the rest of his life --- until he himself was killed, while hanging from his hair, tangled in the limbs of a tree.
Oh but imagine how differently their story could be told... if only...

Oh God, please help us to cover our wounds with Your great hands.
For only Your hands know how to deal with those who wound us.
In this world, we're having trouble...
but we-----will-----not------be--------afraid...
You are stronger. You win.

Open our eyes to see the gaping wounds in ourselves and in those beside us, and apply the healing salve that is only found in You.
No life-stealing “bugs” allowed.

We are not desolate or destitute ----- we have a home and a Father.

©2015 Donna Taylor - Reaching for the Robe

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