One of the things I loved about summertime in High school was jumping in a car with my friend, Charlie, and traveling all over the midwest to go see, Rich Mullins, in concert. He didn’t look like other Christian artists at the time, he didn’t talk like other Christian artists at the time, and he didn’t live like…well….like most Christian people I knew at the time. You didn’t always agree with everything that he said, but you left the concert focused again on Jesus, and on his call to radical obedience – spoken by a man who gave up considerable income and lived on a Navajo reservation in a trailer.
I’ve included just one clip from a concert he gave the year that he died….hard to believe his death happened 15 years ago today.
If you’ve never listened much to Rich Mullins, I would give him a try — I consider him one of the most gifted song writers to come out of Christian music.
To Read part I click here. To Read part II click here.
Carrying Death in His Hands.
The crisp, spring air filled the room where Bathsheba slept, drawing her from that purgatory between fully dreaming and fully awake, where the lines between what is real and what is illusion are harder to find.
“Bathsheba!” Uriah’s voice echoed throughout the house. “Bathsheba?” Bathsheba leaped from bed, and turned the corner to find her husband gathering his things and carelessly shoving them into his sack. “Uriah, what is it?” Bathsheba asked rhetorically. Uriah turned and rushed toward her, clutching papers in his right hand. “I just left the palace, I was with my commander….I’m heading out….today….right now….
“What is that in your hand, Uriah?”
“My orders, for my commanders upon my return.”
“What do your orders say?” Bathsheba probed with subtle curiosity and growing fear.
“I….I don’t know….I haven’t read them….they….they are for my commander, Bathsheba.” Uriah said, his excitement dampened by his Wife’s confusing line of questioning.
“Bathsheba….I will carry these orders back with me to my men; I will fight for our King; and then I will return home to you and we will begin our family.” Bathsheba could only stare at him with pity. He placed his hands on each side of her face so as to catch the tears now on the downward slope of her check bones.
“But Uriah I….” “Not now” Uriah stopped her. “What till I return….I will be back soon.” He then turned to finish collecting his things.
A few hours later, two riders from the King’s palace arrived at the door to escort, Uriah, back to the battlefield. Bathsheba stood in the door frame of their house as, Uriah, mounted his horse and secured his sack. He removed his helmet and turned to see, Bathsheba, one more time. She smiled and raised her hand. Uriah, sat motionless, staring at her as though he were mentally sketching every detail of her frame. He raised his hand to match hers, smiled, then quickly snapped the reigns and sped away with his escort.
In his hands he still held the orders from his King. If only Uriah would’ve opened the letter and read his orders. just inside the fold were the words,
Uriah, battle, retreat, struck down, die.
Oh to carry death in your hands and be unaware of it. As Bathsheba watched her husband disappear out of sight, she became a witness to the ravages of sin; the power that it wields to permeate all of life, to wound, to break, to steal, to kill, and to destroy. By Winter, Bathsheba, would give birth to her first child, a boy. She and her husband, King David, would also carry death in their hands, pleading for the life of their firstborn, as death once again takes what it does not deserve.
Weeks have passed since she said goodbye to Uriah, and Bathsheba makes her way to the rooftop, in the cool of the evening. As she sits in the bath, she recognizes the faint glow of torches, being carried by riders on horseback. As they move closer, she can make out two men from the King’s army, weaving through town and moving closer to her house. Bathsheba, steps out of the tub, dresses, and makes it down to the door in time to greet the two men. No words are exchanged. One of the soldiers pulls a letter from his saddle, walks over to Bathsheba, and places it softly in her hands. The two men mount their horses, turn quickly and gallop away, unaware of the tiny frame of what was once a wife, now collapsed by the doorway in a pile of sorrow.
The walls of their home danced with shadows as Uriah and Bathsheba sat by candle light and rehearsed the story of their individual lives until they moved in step once again. Uriah, said very little about the fighting that had taken him away from, Bathsheba, many months ago. Occasionally she would ask a question that moved closer to the memories of combat, to which, Uriah, would respond by questioning the King’s decision to call him home, away from his men, away from his duties.
Bathsheba, could also not bring herself to mention the unseen battle she was engaged in just a few months ago; a battle that led to her surrender, led away like a captive to the sinful desires of a King whose eyes fell on Bathsheba one day as he walked the balcony of his palace instead of the fields of war. She recalls every detail of that night with a strange mix of fondness and regret. She remembers all of the moments along the way to her King’s bed when she could have stopped, whatever the cost, she could have stopped….why didn’t she stop?
As they continued to talk, Bathsheba felt the tension draining from her body. With each kiss, each touch, she was reintroduced to the man who years ago took her hand and brought her to his house. The hour was late, and so she rose, took the hand of her husband, and led him to their bed. Uriah first walked willingly behind her, then stopped suddenly, as though he recognized the moment. “Bathsheba….I….can’t” he said quietly. “Tonight, as I sit by your side, my men, my brothers, are sleeping under the stars, burying the dead and preparing for another battle.” “How….how can I live with you in this house as though I were unaware?” Bathsheba stared into her husband’s eyes with great longing….but even greater admiration. Uriah, leaned forward and kissed her on her forehead, lingering for just a moment to breathe in the fragrance that was unique to his wife. He then turned, moved toward his bag, and spread out a bed on the ground.
“I’m pregnant, Uriah” Bathsheba whispered as she watched her husband prepare for bed. “I’m pregnant with King David’s child….I’m….I’m so sorry”. She could not speak the words any louder, just as she could not foresee the series of events that an evening with the King would set in to motion, and the devastating consequences for everyone involved….
After a month away, I am back to writing. I decided to start my blog again with a retelling of a familiar (maybe too familiar) story in the bible. You can read the story in 2 Samuel 11 by clicking here.
Carrying Death in His Hands.
Uriah, stood in the doorway of his house….his bones ached from exhaustion, his mind tortured by images of battle, his senses taunted by the sights and smells, and familiarity of home. He could see her by the open window, rays of afternoon sun flirting with her black hair that hung like curtains around her neck. Just the sight of her frame brought back memories of a life outside of war, and filled Uriah’s eyes with tears as the longing of his heart found expression on his face.
“Bathsheba” He whispered through parched lips.
Bathsheba’s hands froze in the dough she was kneading. She looked up but could not wrestle her body to face him. “Bathsheba?” Uriah spoke firmly this time, leaving no doubt she could hear him. She turned toward him, eyes pooling with tears; she wiped the remnants of dinner preparation on her gown as she bounded toward him. Uriah dropped the sack in his hand and ran to hold her. The force of his hug consumed her and sent them both stumbling across the room. He pulled back from their embrace to study her face again. Bathsheba’s eyes were a mixture of colors and textures; splashes of joy and hope; streaks of shame, shades of regret.
“What’s….what’s wrong Bathsheba?” Uriah asked, confused by the mixed greeting in her expression.
Bathsheba wrestled her face into submission, forcing the corners of her mouth to rise against their will until she presented him a smile. “it’s….it’s just been so long, and….I wasn’t expecting you….I have nothing ready, nothing prepared for….” Uriah placed his hands on each side of her face, and guided her lips toward his. “I’m home….with you….everything is….perfect”.
Uriah embraced her tightly. Bathsheba knew that everything was far from perfect. The child growing inside of her, was now a constant reminder of the double life she had entered into. As she held her husband, she could see the walls of the King’s Palace behind him, invading the open window of their house, dividing the couple joined in embrace, and conquering a love she once believed was as strong as death.
She needed to tell him….he needed to know the truth….