Although made of the same chemicals originally, acute stress and longer-term stress are different beasts to deal with.
A biblical character of Mephibosheth who we looked at in the last edition suffered an extreme acute stress event when he was five years old. I’ve estimated that it may have been up to fifteen years later that he experienced the kindness that would have helped him find a measure of restoration in his soul.
We do not know a lot about those alleged fifteen years except they would have been difficult. We do know from the stress literature today something of the story of long-term stress.
Notice that from Mephibosheth his painful life-changes happened to him. They were factors entirely out of his control. Today we label them exogenous. For this little lad on one fateful day everything changed for him and that change happened to him.
Working with what little we know I will make some suggestions as to Mephibosheth’s long-term stress and its outcomes.
First, we do know that he lost four key male figures in his life, his father, grandfather, and two uncles. Mephibosheth faced a life without fatherhood. One long-term stress that he had to deal with was what that did to his own view of himself as a man. When we hear him speak, he calls himself a ‘dead-dog’. Someone who has known the love, encouragement and advice of a real father does not see themselves like that. Mephibosheth’s self esteem was extremely low.
Immediately you can see that David’s kindness spoke into that pain. David was Mephibosheth’s father’s best friend. Now he was pouring fatherly kindness into Mephibosheth’s life. No one can replace an actual father but kindness from a male figure can pour balm into what some have called ‘the father-wound’.
David’s kindness also reformatted Mephibosheth’s life’s path. Had Saul lived, his son would have become king and Mephibosheth would have been the son and possibly heir to the throne. His life path was utterly smashed by the Battle of Mt. Gilboa.
Long-term stress feeds the sense of the meaninglessness of life. David brought Mephibosheth back into the royal household permanently, giving him status and an estate. David gave him a business to manage and staff to handle. He gave him a right-hand man and he gave him responsibilities.
I will mention one other chronic stress effect and explore it further next time. Mephibosheth was living in a place called Lo Debar. Literally this means Land of Nothing. Mephibosheth’s stress would have generated a sense of nothingness in his soul. Nothing makes sense, nothing is working.
Long-term stress generates a path to nothingness. Pretty soon the sufferer can be feeling, “I am nothing”.
Listen to Mephibosheth’s question to David, “What is your servant that you should notice a dead-dog like me?” It’s a heartbreaking self-description revealing the need to be noticed and the pain of being overlooked.
Next time I will examine some of the symptoms of nothingness and the deep restorative power of kindness. Mephibosheth’s story is not one of despair but of restoration.
Perhaps this week you will be the restorer through kindness, or you may need restoration by the kindness of others. Either way it is a profound path.
Work well today,
© Geoff Shattock October 2019
2 Samuel 4:4
4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)
2 Samuel 9:1-13
1David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. 3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” 4 “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” 5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. 6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. 7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” 8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons. 12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.
See also: 1 Samuel 31
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