Reagan’s farewell speech won him few friends. People, as people do, mocked his assertions that he did what he could. They pointed out all the places where he overstepped, got in over his head, or outright screwed up. They tore down his persona, trashed his age or his manner of speech, or his Superman-esque speeches about moral certitude. He was just another politician.
And why? Because that is how we see ourselves. That is our death-worship’s view of our stature. I have said it before, and I will stick by it: we have been conditioned — brainwashed — not just to accept bad things as a fact of life, but to actually reject any good thing as simply a temporary respite from the chain of misery that serves only to heighten your stress at the next valley.
Tell me you haven’t spilled your drink and then bumped your head when bending over to clean it up and thought “of COURSE that happened.” We have a whole expression for it: “it figures”; we just know in our hearts that life is one long stream of beatings handed off by either a cruelly random universe, a mockingly judgmental god, or the demon lord of this world. The amount of people who snap and kill someone or themselves shows just how deeply this worship of death goes.
Why do I call it death-worship? Well let’s examine worship. The word itself means “reverent honor and homage paid to a sacred deity or item.” Reverent honor is a demonstration of deep respect. Homage is something done or given as an acknowledgement of the superior value of something sacred. Worship, then, is the act of showing that you recognize something’s place as above you and paying tribute of some kind to that; it is the recognition that something has more power than you and more worth and professing so.
Every time we submit ourselves to defeat, to the truth of our bleak existence, we are saying that the world has power over us. We walk around in a state of near-panicked fear awaiting the next slap across our faces, and that anxiety — that fear — is the tribute we pay. We give our freedom to it, our comfort to it, our joy to it. We have handed over to the cause of our woes all the keys to our peace and thereby lock ourselves out of it. Need proof?
How much do bubbly, happy people annoy you? Tell the truth; you see Mr. Shiny Happy walking around talking about the sunshine and rainbows and you want to punch him. Or at least mock him. Or, worst case, watch him to wait for the moment when something takes him down. You see no path to happiness and there’s no way you are going to admit the possibility that someone else does. I was in that space for 30 years. Honestly, I struggle with it today. I know people — and I see them proudly display this on Facebook — who cherish in themselves and their friends that fact that they hate people and prefer to be alone. These people are on my friends list for a reason: I am accepted as one of them.
We hate the rich because there is no way they got their of their own accord as honestly as we strive to reach where they are. We know they hold us back. We hate the Christians because there is no way you get that much peace out of some imaginary friend. Life’s penultimate purpose is to be as surly and sarcastic as you can and tear down as many people as possible to help ease some sliver of the pain running through your life. We worship at the altar of death with every roll of the eyes, every facepalm, and every defeated slump of the shoulders. Every outward breath speaks the certainty of our demise and we will fight anyone who tries to deny our lord of misery.
Do you see it? Is it clear to you yet? Those of you who don’t believe in God have made chaos and death your god. Those who do believe, well you have decided that he is the Punisher. How could He not be the source of your endless pain? The cruel torturer who decided nothing you do is worthy. Everything you have ever read in His book is an exercise in training you to recognize you are worthless. You are guilty, you are a liar, you were born into sin. Where is there not a sentence telling you that you are a filthy wretch? There are songs about it for crying out loud!
Still not seeing it? Let me take a more direct approach. You see the world this way because every act that validates your fears is met with a stern resistance in your heart. “I don’t deserve this,” you say to yourself. Some Christians, even men of strong faith, will tell you that as a sinner you do, indeed, deserve it. You’ve earned it. It’s fair for you to receive. Do you know why you don’t agree with that at the core of your being? What, may I ask, is at the core of your being?
The answer is your spirit; the very first breath God breathed into you. It is your spirit that tells you to resist that assignment of death. Your mind is torn between the external training that you deserve death and the internal assertion that you are worthy and righteous. That battle resolves itself in one of three ways. Choose Your Own Adventure: The Quest For Real Life. Pick a path:
- You beat that small internal voice down. You know better than to listen to that; you are well aware that it’s all pointless and joy is the expression of small minds. You hollow out the room that housed your now-dead spirit and use the space to stuff down more of the bitterness toward your life. You run out of space quickly, so you begin to hollow out the remainder of your heart — quite honestly there’s no point in caring about anything, anyway. But you’re a worm, so you end up with a lot of earthy garbage passing through you; you just go ahead and hollow out your mind. You drift through the remainder of your days finding whatever temporary joy you can until finally you are released to blessed oblivion.
- You agree with that voice, but know your place. What can you do about it? You can get angry, so you do. You rage impotently against death and any who fight for it. You seek any chance to release your anger on the world that holds you down. You become the character of a mediocre Metallica song. Every day of your life you know that you deserve better, but you recognize that Satan is the ruler of this world. He has the power to drown you out and cart you down the torturous path to death, and you hate him for it. You prepare for your death by rehearsing the speech you will give God about how wrong He was to have let you slip into that kind of existence.
- You fight for that voice. You foster that small voice inside you that says you are worth more, deserve better, should be given slack for your unintended failures. You let the voice in your spirit drive you. Where that road goes… well let’s cover one last bit before I can say it.
Your death obsession has shown you that God is variously: a sadist, a judge, an executioner, a watchmaker, or a fiction. If He exists and He bothers to get involved in what He made — both BIG “if”s — then He either hates you or He has given you over to Satan.
But guess what? NONE OF THAT IS TRUE!
God is Love. He absolutely and clearly exists. He is actively involved in every moment of your life. He Loves you, and He keeps you close to Him. Satan is not the ruler of this world. He is named in the Bible as “the prince of this world.” Just the prince. Do you know who the King is? It ain’t Elvis. It’s Christ; risen from the Cross with the keys to hell in His pocket. Satan is in constant rebellion to God, but leashed forever by the tail by Jesus, the living, breathing Word of God. You think he’s happy about that? Nope. Never has been. He wants nothing more than to tear down what God Loves. God Loves us most of all so we are target numero uno.
But those pesky rules. He can’t kill us. He can’t overcome our free will. Get the impact of that? It means that all the rest, the final totality of what he can do, is talk. He is a liar. He walks the world looking for whom he may devour, but he’s a lion with no teeth. “Whom he may devour” consists solely of people willing to open up his mouth, crawl inside, chew themselves up for him, and then let him swallow them. That is the entire extent of his power: the power you give over to him. He’s just a door-to-door salesman.
If you get that, and I mean really grok it down in the core of your being, you can listen to your spirit. You can let it drive you. It will drive you to see the light over the dark. It will push you to live rather than just not die. It will alight a fire in your heart that screams to find the source: God. It will lead you to joy, to comfort, and to peace. Because that is the job of the Holy Spirit: to push open the boundaries of your spirit, the one that awoke when Christ called you, and let Love — let God — flow through you.
You will cease seeking to tear down and instead seek to build up. You will stop nitpicking the failures and begin praising the accomplishments. You will cease living under the guilt of your failures and see, instead, opportunities to learn and grow and succeed the next time. You will become a citizen of the Kingdom of God. There can be no better ending to a life, no more blessed and beloved journey than the one that walks with the lamp of God lighting your path. Father, I pray for this message to reach the hearts of the readers. But more importantly: I pray that it reach my heart; that I can shed this habit of being dead. I hear You, Lord. I see Your point, and I Love You more desperately than I can describe. In the mighty name of Your Word and my brother, Jesus, I pray. Amen.