Overwhelming the Lie of Betrayal

I sat in a choir rehearsal recently at a small Baptist church in Argyle. The director waved his hands wildly to keep a cajon, piano, and four vocalists in line. It was a school assignment ordained by God from the foundation of the world that brought me into a little sanctuary, in a railroad based town with more railroad ties than street names. I had an odd childhood flashback while they played and sang.

The musty hymn books were traded for projection screens. Long stretching pews were replaced by interlocking chairs. Church lighting to cast long dramatic shadows across the room were fewer, and theatrical lighting all the more.

The sound though…

There was something soothing about the piano banging out the parts, and a director shouting some sort of directorial turrets (not expletives, just random things out loud) at the choir. It began to lull me into a comfort so complete that I forgot to take notes. I forgot to note what was happening. I was in a stupor, in fact, until I heard the director say, “Ok, we’re going to leave out verse 3.” One of his choir members quipped,

“In true Baptist tradition.”

That woke me up and was so sudden a joke that I spat a little daydream drool across my lap.

They began to sing again after their shared laughter and I heard,

“Just as I am, without one plea…”

Can you imagine looking back on your life as a man who carried God’s favor more brightly and closely than almost any other man who ever lived? There were victories to remember, and friends to celebrate. There were dark moments to cause grief and sadness anew almost as potent as the moments they were committed.

I cannot imagine being King David and looking back on a great life, and then reminding myself what happened with Bathsheba and after. I don’t know if the dead can see the affairs of the living, but I can imagine, if he can see them, David gets a little sore every time he sees someone start that conversation back up again.

But betrayal is powerful.

It is why we punish crimes against children more passionately than those against adults. Children inherently trust adults and crimes against them betray that trust. It is why mass shootings will always engender outrage, even though they make up a fraction of the homicides in our nation. People trust that the people they occupy this planet with are not going to indiscriminately try and kill them. Mass murder betrays that trust monstrously.

When David’s prophet came to him to accuse him of the monstrous crime of betraying his general Uriah, Nathan explained to David in an analogy about what David had done. David, seeing the simplicity of the betrayal laid out for him outside of his situation for the first time bitterly condemned the traitor to death. Nathan’s response was the birth of an abused and appropriated phrase.

“You are the man.”

Imagine, for the sake of this exercise, that Uriah somehow survives his own sacrifice. A loyal captain who saw the order to essentially murder his general defies the King and rides in on a horse, scoops up his commander, and rides off before the enemy can overwhelm them.

Later, as he relives the moment for the hundredth time in his waking nightmares, he finally sums it all up. He was left on that field to die. Uriah knows nothing of his wife’s infidelity of the King’s betrayal. All he knows is that the man he trusts to rule his home and nation sent him to die.

Their relationship had turned very strange. Uriah could see great things coming in his future. After all, David called him back from the front. Him personally. Maybe there was a promotion coming; a great prize of some kind. Perhaps he will be given a governorship or have another command rolled into his own. They have an awkward meeting where David won’t look him in the eye. Then David sends him home to his wife. Uriah, knowing the connection a commander needs with his troops refuses to go into his wife’s bed. He loves his wife. She is his life more complete and wonderful than his treasured position as a general. As successful a war fighter as he is, he is a better husband.

Even so, he will not betray his men and their needed solidarity for the coming fight, so he sleeps outside. When he reports this to David before leaving for the field, David’s reaction is not one of pride. It is hidden behind a veil.

And now, in a cave, hiding from both his enemy and his King, Uriah only knows that the King hates him so utterly as to leave him on the field to die.

He feels worthless.

He feels alone.

He feels he has somehow brought this upon himself.

He has no idea that the king intended none of these effects. He has no idea that the King has taken Uriah’s wife into his own bed and conceived a child. He has no idea that the King was utterly ignorant of the effect of his actions on either Uriah or the kingdom at large. All he knows is that his life is worth the same nothing as his very own soul.

That is betrayal.

Its potent power is one that tells us that we are worth nothing. It ripples through us out into the surrounding world. Through our newly perceived worth, we interact with the world that we no longer value, because we do not even value ourselves. We treat others like trash, believing them to be our equals. Those things that once brought us joy are now abomination we do not deserve.

A woman sat bitter and cold against the entire world. Life and joy were promised to her by her Bible toting parents. Lazy believers patted her on the back and told her that God has a plan without waiting to hear about the fading light of hope in her heart. Week after week brought new pain after new pain and she valued herself to nothing because she felt her creation signified nothing and aimed toward nothing.

Her name was Charlotte Elliot.

On a cool May evening in Brighton, England, a preacher visited her family. She probably rolled her eyes at the approach of yet another unsympathetic pulpit pounder with decent intentions and zero follow-through. At dinner, she exploded. She condemned everyone at the table and God above to the powerful punishment of her great lifelong wrath built by her physical suffering.

The preacher somehow knew on the other side of the spittle spouting monster was a sliver of the fame of God, a child bearing His image, with pain so potent she had lost sight of her actual worth.

He returned her fire with faithful love. His persistence was so sincere that her barriers came down and, like the woman at the well, asked all of the right questions. The preacher shared the simplicity of salvation and its healing for her hurting heart. He explained that she need not wait until she was well, or even happy. He said right now is the time.

I would come to God just as I am? Is that right?[1]

And she did.

I cannot overstate the importance and difficulty in overcoming the value decimation that comes with betrayal. A betrayed heart hurts. And hurt people hurt people. Betrayal gives birth to a parade of death in the lives of those effected. It is a quickly setting rot that can ruin decades of good work. It can shade the happiest of memories and cause any moment of personal victory to become suspect.

You didn’t actually earn that.

You don’t actually deserve that.

You are worth only abuse.

I have been betrayer and I have been betrayed. No moment is more potent than that which I have most recently undergone. In that, though, I have seen the cure and the flickering, never extinguished light of hope that God holds up in the gale of doubt.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within… without…
O Lamb of God, I come, I come! [2]

Uriah could not have known that the source of his betrayal was not him. He never warranted his own murder. David was so blinded by his own panic and overcome with his own guilt that he forgot about his duty as King.

I have forgiven the one who betrayed me, and moment by moment, God is restoring me to an understanding of my authentic worth to Him in His Kingdom. Where He has taken me is not back to the ground on which I once stood. He has brought me to new ground in a deeper relationship. He has never failed me. He has never left me. No matter what I doubted within myself, there was no doubt in His mind about what He has created me to be. He will not give up on that.

And He will not betray.

In celebration of that fact, I love to sing the song from Sinach which says,

I know who God says I am
What He says I am
Where He says I’m at (sorry mom)
I know who I am
I’m walking in power
I’m working miracles
I live a life of favor
Cause I know who I am [3]

And that’s more than enough for me.

1. Robert Morgan, Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003) 113.

2. Charlotte Elliot, “Just As I Am,” in Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories by Robert Morgan, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003) 112.

3. Sinach, “I Know Who I Am,” on Sinach at Christmas, (Sinach, 2013).

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