A Millennial Review of Dr. Mark Rutland’s “David The Great”

[Estimated reading time: 4m53s]

I’ll make you aware of two disclaimers:

First, the temptation I face in reviewing “David The Great” is to dive deep into my appreciation for the author. It wouldn’t be long before my flattery robs from the legitimacy of what I’d like to tell you. Full disclosure: I love Dr. Mark Rutland, but not in that millennial way you see when every good thing is captioned: “This. This is everything.” I appreciate Dr. Rutland, but I’ve also spent years reading everything he’s written. I humbly submit that I am in fact able to write a review of “David The Great” based on merit and not on that hyperbolic, viral-video scale you see elsewhere.

Second, I’d like you to know this post is utterly unsolicited. Marketers have realized the best way to reach readers is through readers. I’ve been on many teams that preview books and intentionally spread the word. I’m a big fan of this method and will continue to preview books. However, no one at Global Servants or Charisma House asked me to read/review “David The Great.” I’m writing this because my friends and I are desperate for solid wisdom and direction as we unapologetically beg God for His will and plan for our lives.

1 — Messiness

Upon opening the book, I immediately became aware of the importance Dr. Rutland is placing on revealing the messiness of David’s life. Stephen Mansfield said it well in his endorsement: the David we read about in “David The Great” is “raw and complex.”

Even before the chapters begin, Dr. Rutland goes so far as to write the reader a letter where he warns, “this is gonna get rowdy,” but that “truth is worth the mess.” In reading the detailed consequences of David’s flaws, I found an appreciation for his “real, rawness” without condoning David’s bad behavior.

While I’m not quick to pass blame on to my elders, I can’t help but wonder if the well-intentioned omission of grim and messy consequences of David’s mistakes backfired on our parent’s generation as we saw a strong male figure on a felt-board whose victories were celebrated to the neglect of his consequences.

We twenty-somethings don’t consider something until we perceive it to be “real” and “authentic,” but what about when your celebration of “realness” becomes real harmful? Aren’t we also guilty of excusing bad behavior under the guise of “at least I’m real”?

Real? What about real change? Real progress? What about real hard work and real growth? Real ownership of your behavior and the consequences thereof? The author points out that David ends up intentionally memorializing his mistakes in the Psalms for all to see and learn from.

It’s dawned on me that many of my leaders’ frustrations with my generation are rooted in behaviors we swear by because they make us appear “real” without demanding real accountability and real responsibility. David’s fame was high, but so were the stakes with which he operated. People died because of this guy. I can’t help but think about this the next time I beg God to make my dreams come true.

2 — Timing

I remember being 11 years old when Freddy Adu scored his first goal in Major League Soccer at age 14. This was my first battle with the anxiety and shame that overwhelms the ambitious when they feel unaccomplished. 14!, I thought, that means I have less than 3 years to go pro and score my first goal or I’m finished!

Another side-effect of felt-board David has been the brevity with which I consider his life. A disadvantage with overfamiliarity with scripture is how one’s thoughts quickly jump to each character’s highlights without considering the long, drawn out processes they had to endure.

I’ve spent years struggling with this: when comparing my short years to David’s entire life, I’m overwhelmed with wave after wave of guilt and hurried ambition. Why haven’t I conquered a Goliath yet? I’m 25 and I haven’t even started the company I was supposed to sell by now!

It’s only when I consider David’s whole story, not just his Goliath moments, that I can breathe in some relief. Dr. Rutland does a substantial job drawing out the agonizing patience and stillness David’s destiny demanded of him.

What about David’s time in the caves?

What about his bonkers refusal to capitalize on Saul’s mistakes and kill him when he has the chance?

And even though we jump to the wretched mistakes that came shortly thereafter, what about the restlessness that kept David awake in the first place before he took the walk that eventually led to seeing Bathsheba bathing? I laid in bed staring at the ceiling for 5 hours and 39 minutes last night thinking about what I need to accomplish in my life. That’s not an arbitrary amount of time! I timed it!

Can we slow down our recollection of David’s story long enough to appreciate the timing of his destiny materializing? Dr. Rutland does a fine job of helping us try. 

3 — Wisdom

Throughout each chapter, Dr. Rutland pauses David’s story for plenty of “Lessons from Old Dr. Mark” moments. Each chapter is also concluded with a “Leadership Focus” that breaks down what 21st century men and women can learn from David’s good and bad decisions.

Several of these lessons could stand as separate, solid books of their own. I won’t attempt to explain their helpfulness here, but you should know these gems, keys to the destinies we’re desperate to encounter, are patiently sitting still on pieces of paper inside boxes inside a warehouse somewhere in Florida or Georgia, waiting for you to pre-order “David The Great” and read it.

A comprehensive list of reflections and lessons from “David The Great” would realistically require a commentary with much more than the 219 pages Dr. Rutland needed to get this message on paper, but I’ll leave you with one of my most devastating takeaways:

The conviction I felt as I realized an area where I’m unlike David and unlike Dr. Rutland and unlike Jesus. The humility of these men to willingly communicate this wisdom to those like myself who’ve often scoffed at what we simply didn’t understand.

I can smell the Saul in myself when I consider the unfortunate truth that if I were in Dr. Rutland’s position, with all the accolades and accomplishments, I wouldn’t be as willing as he’s been to figure out how people Arvin Sepehr’s age communicate and make God’s wisdom clear to them. In the shoes of many of my leaders, I’d probably look at millennials and scoff. Go ahead, do it your way, I’d think, congratulate yourself for being real and carefree and broke. Tweet your cynical anecdotes and mask your self-serving vain ambition with confused and unrealistic altruism.

Thankfully, I’m aware I’m far from ready from anything even slightly resembling authority. In the meantime, I’ll interrupt my repentance and desperate reflection with the one thing we millennials perhaps need most at our spot in history: the willingness, as Dr. Rutland says, to “Stop. Pause. Wait on God. Be Still.”

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