On twirling spears
We read that Saul nearly pinned David, or Jonathan, to a wall with a spear on at least four occasions. He was, to say the least, a man with anger management issues. And he always seemed to have a spear in his hand (1 Samuel 18:10, 19:9).
I remember coming across a line in Roger Ellsworth’s commentary on 1 Samuel many years ago commenting on Saul as a man who liked to wander round the palace with a spear, twirling it in his hand as he sat on the throne. Then with rapier-like precision, Ellsworth asked, “Is this a picture of you?” And he went on to apply it to carrying around destructive thoughts, turning around in our minds over and over again what we might say to so and so, practising our put-downs.
You know how it is: that argument you have as you look in the mirror brushing your teeth, or shaving… the argument where you are rehearsing just what you would like to say to that person at work, or at church, or in the next room!... the argument you always win, but actually will never say. Or maybe it’s in your head in the car on the way home from work. The words are locked and loaded, and we imagine letting them fly, pinning the person to the wall.
That’s spear twirling.
What really struck me is how we can’t even afford ourselves the ‘luxury’ of winning such an argument in our heads. We can’t allow spear twirling—wandering around the palace of our heads with a spear in our hands.
The problem is that as we rehearse graceless or vindictive responses, even if we never intend to say them, we lay down neural pathways. We train the muscle memory of our mind for spear throwing. And someday when we least intend it the spear will fly from our grasp and pin someone to the wall. Or when, for whatever reason, our faculties of self-control start to wane, others may find us saying the things we never said out loud, but had practised often.
And more than the fear of what may happen, there is the reality of the corrosive effect of indulging our bitterness and anger. It is sin whether it comes out or not. And as one of those internal, unwitnessed sins, it is rarely repented of—but corrodes us all the more.
The solution is to refuse to twirl the spear. To catch ourselves at it and interrupt it as early as we can. To refuse to engage in that internal debate—instead to force ourselves to put the spear down.
But our brain still needs something to do in that moment—nature abhors a vacuum, and Satan loves it. He has plenty more spears to hand to us.
So, what to do instead of practising majorette moves with your spear?
But not any old prayers—for Satan has a way of distorting them, of getting us to rehearse the injury even in our prayers. And so we may end praying something like, "O Lord would you please transform, that bitter, vindictive, irrational, bad tempered, LAZY, GOOD-FOR-NOTHING….” Or “O Lord, please help me to forgive them for doing this, and this and this to me. Help me to stop remembering it and calling it to mind that they did this wrong to me…” And so somehow, in the very act of trying to put the spear down, the spear has ended up in our hand again.
I’ve found I can’t trust myself to pray with my words. I’ve found I have to use God’s words. In particular, one place I go to to pray for the person is Ephesians 3:14-21.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
It keeps me well away from the spear. And transforms my focus from the injury to seeking the person’s good. And that has a knock on effect the next time you see them. The mind has been laying down different tracks for your thoughts and reactions to run on.
It’s all part of what Paul means by “taking every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5) and “being transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2).
This is a theme we will come back to in a future article, God willing.