“When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul…Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him.” – I Samuel 18:1-5
One of the oldest love stories in the world is about David and Jonathan: David who later became King David, one of the greatest kings of Israel, and Jonathan, who was son of King Saul, the first king of Israel. It was a brotherly love, a bestie love, and despite naysayers, I declare it a romantic love, a love is love is love is love, enshrined in the Judeo-Christian canon.
How else do you explain this sibilant phrase: “When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”
That is something–to love another soul as your own soul. To let the ego boundaries fall away, to put self-interest aside so utterly, to know, at first sight, that this is the person for you, for whom you would go anywhere, do anything, with whom you can be the strongest and most extraordinary version of yourself.
I recently preached this passage as a wedding homily. When Jonathan realized he was in love with David, he did something unexpected. He took off his weapons and armor and stripped naked. He became utterly vulnerable: literally, “able to be wounded.” One of the great challenges of a lifelong marriage, especially a marriage between two strong individuals, is to be able to live fully and vulnerably with another human being without wounding each other too much.
Marriage calls on us to un-armor ourselves again and again: to forsake pride, ego, and the need to be right; to surrender to our need for each other and to cultivate chronic tenderness–the good kind.
One more thing: the end result of Jonathan offering David his armor is that David was ‘successful wherever he went.’ One of the great gifts of a good marriage–or any close love relationship–is how it makes us more successful in life. Because we have a strong and secure home base, we have courage and boldness to become the people God intends us to be.
God, send us good siblings, besties and beloveds. May we be unarmored before them, and may their love embolden us to do bold and holy work in the world. Amen.