Inferiority Complex


Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:8)

Mephibosheth was not having the best of lives.  Born a prince to the heir apparent, he was expected to follow in the royal footsteps of his father and his father’s father before him, but then life took a turn.

His father and grandfather engaged in an ill-advised war against a more powerful enemy.  When the fighting was over, a good part of two generations of royalty was dead on the battlefield.  Mephibosheth was an orphan.

When news of the king’s and princes’ deaths reached the king’s residence, Mephibosheth’s nurse panicked.  Snatching up the five-year-old, she tried to flee to safety and escape the attack that was sure to come.  No one knows exatly what happened next, but somehow the nurse lost her grip and dropped Mephibosheth.  His fall was so severe that he was crippled for life.

Gone were his hopes of sitting on his grandfather’s throne.  Gone was the easy, cared-for life.  Gone was his physical vitality.  These were replaced with hard work, injustice, discrimination, dependence and a lifetime of “If only’s…”  Quietly, he made himself a home in a place called Lo Debar, a place of “no pasture,” no rest.

But then one day, the most remarkable thing happened.  Mephibosheth was summoned before King David.  Initially, he was terrified.  New kings killed all the sons of old kings as insurance against claims to the throne.  Mephibosheth knew he was the only one left.  All the other heirs to his grandfather’s throne had been murdered or died in battle.

Mephibosheth trembled before the king, expecting the death sentence to be executed at any moment.  But imagine his surprise, imagine his confusion, imagine his elation when David said instead:

“…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.”  

What a complete reversal of fortune!  What an unexpected happy ending to a life of misery and pain!  And Mephibosheth, unable to fully comprehend, asked: 

 “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

In that one statement, I hear the echo of all of humankind.  “What am I that You should notice me?”  For you see, Mephibosheth’s story is our story.  We are the princes born into the royal line.  Adam was our first king, but he engaged in an ill-advised war against a more powerful enemy and left us orphans without a Daddy. 

And for many of us, the story is even more personal.  Someone, somewhere, sometime dropped us.  Maybe they didn’t mean to.  Maybe they were just trying to save themselves.  Or maybe they were serving the Enemy.  Whatever the reason, what they did crippled us for life.

Gone was our physical or emotional or mental or spiritual vitality.  Gone were our hopes for our future.  These were replaced with hard work, injustice, discrimination, dependence and a lifetime of “If only’s…”  We are living in our own Lo Debar, and we can’t find rest from the trials of our lives.

And so when we, like Mephibosheth, are summoned before the King, we can’t help but think He doesn’t like us very much.  We’re crippled after all – all of us – in some way.  If not physically or mentally or emotionally, then spiritually.  None of us is ever whole spiritually without Christ, because the first one to drop us was Adam.

As a human race, we suffer from a terrible inferiority complex.  We all ask, “What am I that You should notice me?” in some way or another. 

  • Some believe that we evolved from less sophisticated stuff even though the law of entropy and the vagaries of chance testify against it.  So much energy and intelligence is wasted trying to divorce us from God, because we are uncomfortable with His unconditional love.  If we are self-made men, survivors of the fittest, then we don’t owe anybody anything. 

  • Some assert that there has to be life on other planets, and while I don’t want to be dogmatic about it, I think they feel that way because they can’t fathom why God would make the entire universe just for us to stare into at night.  It seems so extravagant.

  • Some believe that God set the universe in motion and then let it go, like a child winding up a mechanical toy.  They believe that God is too mighty and great to be interested or involved in the trivialities of our lives. 

  • Some won’t even come to God until “they take care of a few things.”  They feel like they have to clean up their spiritual house before God can come for a visit.  But of course this never works, because we’re incapable of cleaning house.  He has to do it for us. 

  • Some Many Almost all of us struggle with the idea of grace.  We think that there has to be a catch.  God couldn’t love us that much!  We’ve got to do something to earn it.  This leads many (even thoughtful, intelligent Christian theologians) to think that salvation is conditional.  “If I do this, I’ll get this…”  Quid pro quo.

“What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 

Our self-image tells us that we are unworthy of the kind of love and attention that God gives us.  It tells us to mistrust it, to try to explain it away.  But God’s love for us is real, and it is unthinkably extravagant.  It is without hesitation and without condition.  It is not based on what you do but only on who you are, and you are God’s greatest creation, the one He saved for last.

Someone dropped us; God wants to pick us up.  He calls us out of Lo Debar and offers us rest from all our striving.  Though we can’t enter our new pasture today, it has been prepared ahead for us.  And remarkably, He invites us to eat at the King’s table.  We expected judgment; He extends us grace.

Though our walk is crippled here on earth, there, no one will be able to see our feet under the table.  No one will ask us about our faults and our failures.  No one will treat us unfairly.  No one will point out how “unattractive” we are.  There, we will have the King’s endorsement.  When He invites you to His table, He’s saying that all these things don’t matter to Him.

Accept His invitation.  Reserve your place at the table.  And then allow yourself to receive His empowering, unconditional love.  You are worth it, because He says you are worth it.

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