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Kill Your Darlings?

( a Steve Orr scripture reflection)


I stopped reading The Game of Thrones after finishing the first book, never to pick up another.


Without revealing any spoilers, I will explain. The novel’s title refers to the often terrible things people will do in pursuit of power, the alliances they make and break, the terrible acts they perform to feed their all-consuming need to rule. As bad as those things can be, I didn’t stop reading the series because of them.


Among the foundational things writers are taught, there is a maxim: "Kill your darlings." It's supposed to be an editorial act. The author is encouraged to eliminate his/her personal favorites—those that, quite often, actually detract from the story being told. The best writers do it all the time. And it is very rare for those assassinated darlings to ever return. 


But I didn't stop reading The Game of Thrones novels because the author was killing off his darlings. I stopped because he was killing off mine! He had killed off so many of my favorite characters by the end of the first novel, I couldn't go on. As I have come to learn, he kept killing them off through all seven books.  


I am not naive. I know that in real life, the "game of thrones," whatever form it takes, is serious business. The desire to rule can be very intoxicating to those who "play." It's just that I believe there is someone else in the picture, someone not present in those Game of Thrones novels. 


Consider this week’s 1 Samuel scripture. God makes it clear to the prophet Samuel that He is very serious about who leads His people. He expects obedience and loyalty from the one who occupies the "throne." But God is patient, as well. God gives leaders chance after chance to get it right. However, God may already have laid the plan for who will replace them.


In the 1 Samuel passage, we read that God removed His spirit from King Saul and bestowed it on Jesse's youngest son. David was the last person any contemporary would have picked for king. That is, if they had thought of David at all, something which his own father failed to do. David was the runt, the youngest, the smallest—how could he become a king? Then, even though David was hand-chosen by God to lead God’s people, the story took a surprising turn. 


David did not immediately ascend to the throne. 


God allowed King Saul to occupy the throne for quite a long time after deciding to replace him. Now, why would God do that? Why not remove Saul immediately? When we stop and think about it, we realize why God gave Saul such a long lead time—so Saul might choose true repentance. 


Sadly, the throne meant more to Saul than his relationship with God. For Saul, the game of thrones was over. He just didn’t know it. God had already decided to take the throne from him. But for a good long while, Saul still could have chosen to relinquish that throne, with all the games surrounding it. He could have returned the throne to God, Israel’s original king, and sought forgiveness for his disobedience.


God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart." 

—1 Samuel 16:7

God extends grace, even toward those who have broken covenant with Him, patiently waiting, giving them a chance to repent. Therein lies the true difference between many an author of fiction and the author of our salvation: 

God wants His darlings to live. 


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