Sometimes, it takes awhile to catch on to a verse or a story you've read a thousand times in your Bible. Or you'll read something and then a few verses later, something else and it's not until the thousand-and-first time reading it that you actually connect the two. Such was the case for me in the book of Daniel, chapter 5.
Sorry. Let's start in chapter 4.
Before the words came out of his mouth, a voice said from heaven, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, listen to this: The kingdom has been taken from you. You will be forced away from people and live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like cattle. And seven time periods will pass until you realize that the Most High has power over human kingdoms and that he gives them to whomever he wishes. - 4:31-32
This is the part of the story I think I have always understood. It's a curse. It is a promised curse from God that the king of Babylon's time is up and he will spend the next many years living like a wild animal, with no place to call his home and no farm to sustain him and just the scrounging and scavenging that animals do. Sounds pretty bad, falling from king to beast in the blink of an eye. Certainly, that's a powerful curse.
But that's not the curse. Now skip ahead to chapter 5.
But when [Nebuchadnezzar] became so arrogant and conceited that he became overconfident, he was removed from the royal throne. His honor was taken away from him. He was chased away from people, and his mind was changed into an animal's mind. He lived with wild donkeys, ate grass like cattle, and his body became wet with dew from the sky. -20-21a
The curse is that his honor is taken away. The curse is that he doesn't get to rule the kingdom any more. But do you see the grace?
The grace is that God made him crazy enough to not notice.
God didn't just cast Nebuchadnezzar into the grasslands and abandon him there to fend for himself. No. The Lord gave him the mind of an animal to live there, to survive there, even to thrive there without, perhaps, the conscious thought to process his current state. God was taking Nebuchadnezzar away from the people, to purify the people. He was taking the people away from Nebuchadnezzar to humble the king. And He was taking Nebuchadnezzar away from himself to exalt the Most High. It wasn't at all that the king was rejected and despised; he was actually...set aside.
That's pretty cool because, news flash, I'm kind of crazy. As I'm growing older, I'm kind of leaning into my crazy a little bit and finding that when I do that, I have a lot less tension with my world. Can you imagine the distress the king would have had if he'd been in his mind to know he was a royal man eating a wild grass? I've had that feeling. But when I lean into my crazy, when I just accept what's in my head, I find that whatever I'm doing, wherever I am, feels completely natural. It's freeing. Somewhere in that natural state, I find what Nebuchadnezzar had to find, which is a way to see God. (5:21b)
I am humbled and honored as I embrace more and more of what God created in me. There are days I feel crazy and it feels like a curse. Then I read stories like this one and laugh. This isn't the curse; the curse is that I don't get to be king any more. The curse is that my god-complex doesn't get me anything. I mean, I'm human. My flesh has that aspiration some days. But do you see the grace?
The grace is that God made me crazy enough to not notice. He made me crazy enough for this place. He made me crazy enough to feel like what I'm doing here is completely natural, the very thing I should be doing, and not the accursed fate of a fallen man. You know what? I love it here. Maybe that only proves that I'm crazy.
But thank God I've lost my mind. Otherwise, I might not feel like I belong here, in the very place He has formed me to be.