(RNS) — I remember the first time I watched a building implode.
I was a child and my father, who was an engineer, took me to a scheduled implosion of the largest building at the chemical company where he worked. A horn sounded and in a matter of seconds, the building crumbled on top of itself. People cheered, chatted for a few moments, and then got in their cars and drove away. Some people love to see a good implosion.
On the way home, my father explained that the implosion took weeks of planning. While the implosion appeared rapid to the onlookers who were eager to see something fall, there was an intentional weakening of the foundation through a series of strategic and sequenced explosives. Explosive devices were placed at key foundational areas in the large building. They were lit in sequence, and when the building was weakened it simply caved in on top of itself. As the structure beneath the surface failed, the building could no longer hold the immense weight and ruin was inevitable.
When the moment of implosion happens, it is fast and devastating. Though the fall may seem fast to onlookers, a ruined building — or human life — does not happen overnight.
Well-respected community leaders, coaches, and pastors seem to be imploding at epidemic levels these days. Stories of abuse, affairs, lapses in integrity, and self-destructive behaviors consuming leaders seem to fill our news feeds at a relentless and alarming pace.
While we often hear people express surprise, we should not be surprised. Just as strong buildings can fall, so can people we admire and respect. And so can we.
If there were ever a person whom people believed would be above falling, above imploding, it would be King David, who was known as “a man after God’s own heart.” David penned psalms, defeated a giant, conquered enemies, united God’s people, and received the promise from God that his throne would last forever — which was a promise kept because Jesus Christ came into our world through the lineage of David.
David was so powerful that even men around him were considered mighty: He bestowed his own greatness on those around him, “David’s mighty men.” When we read about David, we can easily feel dwarfed by his passion for God, his skillful leadership, and his bold moves for the Lord. He was a revered leader, a passionate worshipper and a brilliant artist. Yet he fell. Imploded.
The story of David’s character bankruptcy is found in chapter 11 of 2 Samuel. Instead of going to war, what kings often did in the springtime, David remained in Jerusalem. One night, he strolled on the roof of his palace and saw a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing. He sent for her and slept with her. When he learned she was pregnant, he devised a plan to cover his sin, but it failed: He misused military resources to have her husband killed. The man after God’s own heart wandered from the Lord and ruined his life.
Just as demolition experts place explosives inside of buildings so they will weaken and implode, there were three explosives on the foundation of David’s life that led to his implosion, explosives that can lead to our ruin as well. They are easily hidden from those who watch us from a distance, but they threaten to destroy the foundation of our lives.
First, David was alone. He was isolated, remaining in Jerusalem while his warriors went off to battle. He sent his community away. Friends who would have held him accountable were gone. Friends who would have stopped him from pursuing Bathsheba were nowhere to be found. We can be alone in a crowd if we are surrounded only by people who won’t hold us accountable, who are impressed with us, who only validate and enable our destructive choices. A common thread in leaders who fall is their self-deception that no one understands all they are going through, that they are above the need for community. Ministry leaders can preach on community while living in isolation.
Second, David was bored. He got up from his bed looking for something, anything to satisfy him. This was the same David who years earlier, while living in a cave, woke up the dawn singing to God and found God to be his refuge. But not that night on the palace roof. The Lord, on that night, was not enough for David. He wanted something else, something else to look at, something else to conquer, something else to pursue. If we are looking at the Lord and all his greatness, we are never bored because God never bores. When we are bored, we are not looking to the Lord, and whatever else we are looking at to fulfill us is less than him and can lead to our destruction.
Third, David was prideful. When he was told that Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife, David instructed the servant to get her anyway. In his mind, David deserved whatever he desired. Pride corrupted his heart. Pride always comes before destruction, and David’s sense of entitlement, his sense that he was owed whatever he wanted, proved he was not walking in humble gratitude for all the Lord had given him.
Isolation. Boredom. Pride. If they can corrupt the heart of the man who was a man after God’s own heart, surely they can corrupt ours. They must not be taken lightly. They will ruin a life. They are not sins to be tamed in our hearts but sins that must be slain.
(Eric Geiger is a senior vice president at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division, and the author of “How to Ruin Your Life.” The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)