I recently listened to a psychologist who said that sometimes the only way for people to change intractable bad behavior is to experience an emotionally transformative moment. These moments are often painful and sometimes include great loss, such as broken relationships, divorce, arrest, death of a loved one or accidentally harming someone like vehicular manslaughter. For the addict or alcoholic these moments provide their rock bottom, but transformative moments occur in the lives of people of all levels of social status and behavior, not just addicts. Sometimes these moments correct bad behavior and sometimes they help us rediscover the virtue in us.
King David had lapsed into bad behavior because he could not see the difference between G-d allowing him to get a woman he admired, Abigail, because her arrogant jerk husband, Nabal, died (I Samuel 25) and plotting to kill a noble man, Uriah the Hittite, because he coveted and then committed adultery with his wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12). The correction of King David’s bad behavior began with confrontation by the prophet Nathan first to bring him to realization of having done wrong (2 Samuel 12:1-9) and then realization of the consequence of his bad behavior, that there will be violence and rebellion in his household (2 Samuel 12:10-12). Even though King David acknowledged his behavior was wrong in (verse 13), he still needed an emotionally transformative moment to change his behavior. The emotionally transformative moment came in the death of the son that was conceived out of that union, (verses 14, 20).
Though emotionally transformative moments can be beneficial they are not always something that someone would relish. Although David knew it was coming, he got downright ugly crying before G-d, laying on the ground and not eating praying for the life of his son, hoping desperately to forego the emotionally transformative moment of the death of a child (2 Samuel 12:16-17). Likewise, Jesus knew his emotionally transformative moment was coming when he would be handed over to be crucified (Matthew 26:1), and in a moment of true humanity he fell on the ground and prayed that he would be allowed to avoid it, but then acquiesced that it was the only way to actualize the salvation of humanity and correct our separation from God (Matthew 26:39).
When emotionally transformative moments cannot be avoided, we should at least make sure we get what we need from them. I don’t like to shop in stores, but when I do have to go shopping, I like to get in, get the goods and get out. It helps to know exactly where the items you need are located. King David wrote Psalm 51 in his emotionally transformative moment. The Robert Allen Layman’s Chorus, with whom I am privileged to sing, performs a song with lyrics based on verses 10-12 of Psalm 51.
Create in me a clean heart
And renew a right spirit in me
Cast me not away from they presence Lord
And take not Thy sprit from me.
The goal is clear, to renew a right spirit, and King David makes it clear that is achieved by being contrite, repentant (Psalm 51:17). However, David makes clear that the actual transformation results from our contrite heart making way for a Divine cleanup and coverup operation (verses 7-10). I will humbly straighten my crown and carry on, remembering that my crown is not the symbol of my righteousness (Isaiah 64:6 Romans 3:22-23), but of The Divine's grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I know the pain of emotioanally transformative moments like when my mother died only weeks after I lost my friend Norman, separating from my wife, being laid off from a job, and recently a failed relationship. I continue to learn from these experiences which though difficult have transformed my life. I pray for those who are going through emotionally transformative moments, even my friends who have recently lost loved ones so close as a father, a spouse or a child, that in their healing. G-d will renew The Spirit in them.