Who was Saul? He was king of Israel just before David. In many ways, he did not serve well. And God chose someone else to reign in his place. ``How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?'' 1 God said to the prophet Samuel. Who is Saul? I asked myself one day after reading this story once again. That's an easy one, I thought quickly. In a sense, I am Saul. And I am also Samuel and David (the new king). That is, there are old, tired ways and reactive tendencies associated with me that I am ready to leave behind now. I will be happier, as will my family and friends, and it is something I can do. I can ``reject Saul.'' The ``Samuel'' here is the moral strength coming from God that enables me to choose better and better ways to think and act. ``David'' is the new king. The qualities he expressed point to the real me, created in God's image and likeness, manifesting His goodness.
Of course, all these Bible figures were individuals who lived in a specific time and place. And Saul couldn't be considered exclusively evil or David totally good. But it has been helpful to me, as one who is trying to be a better family and community member in God-directed ways, to identify what each represents in my experience today.
What might ``Saul'' symbolize, specifically? We might consider him anything from unpleasant personality traits to perhaps more severe character flaws. Perhaps he is shyness or unfriendliness or insincerity. Or maybe he is lust, dishonesty, intemperance, or egomania. These are not qualities of the man and woman created by God, divine Love.
Transformation begins by rejecting Saul, by showing a heartfelt desire to change, to be a different person. What God excludes, He empowers us to exclude as well. ``Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea,'' 2 says Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
Many of us believe we are growing, progressing. Yet often growth seems slower than we would like. Thank goodness we personally don't have to supply the push that will move us forward. God's gracious love is always at work, impelling us to turn from negative tendencies to good ones. Doing so, we feel His guidance. We align ourselves with the harmony of divine law, which removes temptations and clears the way for us.
Once I tended to be self-critical to the point of lapsing into periods of severe self-condemnation on days when it seemed everything went poorly. And this, of course, spilled over into criticism of those around me. At the same time, I did love God, and felt I understood that God created man good, pure, and at peace.
So one day, after a round of self-condemnation, I decided to ``reject Saul.'' I knew that God had created me, and that in truth I reflected His perfection. I realized it was wrong for me to condemn myself, because God loved me.
I think I had a couple of struggles after that decision. But very quickly I felt lifted out of situations where self-condemnation might occur. That, I knew, was the result of a power beyond my own good resolve. It was a manifestation of God's care, defending my decision to grow spiritually.
Is there ever a reluctance on your part or mine to give up a negative character trait? Maybe so. At least I've occasionally detected in myself such a tendency, however subtle. To return to the Biblical case in point, God asked Samuel, ``How long wilt thou mourn for Saul . . . ?'' We might ask ourselves, ``How long will I mourn over this trait that I am ready to outgrow?'' God did not create a single evil element in man's individuality; so we can afford to -- and eventually must -- put off whatever is unlike our true nature.
Perhaps a reluctance to change stems from fear of losing something that we feel is ``us'' as distinguished from someone else. But whenever we allow an unpleasant trait to fade from our lives, something God-created, something spiritual and attractive and good (and something always an expression of our true being) is found in its place.
And this points to ``David,'' the new king. Our world needs lots of Davids. The characteristics of a king chosen by God include strength, honesty, vision, affection, unselfishness. Our world needs that now, right where you and I are living. 1 I Samuel 16:1. 2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 323-324.