Saturday, January 5, 2008

Requiem for an Anthem

When I was growing up, several of my friends had favorite songs that were very special to them for various reasons. Some of these songs brought back fond memories. Others communicated how one was feeling when ordinary words would not suffice. But above and beyond all our favorite songs was the song we singled out as being our "theme song." A person's theme song captured the very essence of who that person was.

Like my friends, I too had a "theme song," but I never admitted to it. The reason was my theme song was such an accurate description of what was going on inside my heart, to expose it to someone else would be far too intimate - and a betrayal to the song itself. There was one song that stood out to me above all others in its ability to perfectly diagnose the condition of my own humanity. Go ahead -- have a listen (click here for the lyrics):



This is a song about willful isolation. And I would go so far as to say it is a song about sin. Some may say this statement is a bit extreme. I beg to differ, and as a former hermit, I speak from experience. So here are my top five reasons why willful isolation is sin:

1. It is the epitome of selfishness. When we refuse to open our hearts due to some past emotional injury, we are choosing self over others. Remember Josh's McDowell's definition of love? To protect and provide. When we build walls, "a fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate," as Simon and Garfunkel describe, who are we protecting first and foremost? Self. And as a result, who are we failing to provide for? Everyone else.

2. It is a prime example of rebellion, which God says is as the sin of witchcraft. God exists in a state of continual relationship with himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we are created in His image. When we willfully choose to isolate ourselves from other people, we are rebelling against His design.

3. It is evidence that we do not trust God. We are afraid of how others might hurt us, so we take control and apply our own solution to sin: isolation. But God has already provided a solution for sin. It's called the cross. When we shut our hearts off from others, we are saying that we do not think reconciliation and restoration are possible. We are basically saying that the cross is powerless in the life of the believer.

4. It is evidence that we will not forgive. Many people have been badly betrayed or seen others go through a betrayal. As a result, they have chosen a life of solitude. "But what if you've been hurt really badly by someone?" If this is the case, wisdom would dictate that you stay away from that person. Yet many use proverbial wisdom as a license to sin and justify shutting themselves off from everyone. If we are constantly punishing everyone for what someone else did to us, we have not only not forgiven the offender, we have become the supreme judge of everyone else who crosses our path from that point forward. These poor people do not stand a chance against our subconsious accusations. They have done nothing to us, but they stand condemned for the offenses we know they could possibly commit against us in the future.

5. It shows we're only in this life for what we can get out of it, not what we put in. This is especially true in courtship scenarios. The world's philosphy in selecting a mate is not based on what we have to offer the other person, but rather, what they have to offer us. This is in direct opposition to Christianity. Again, wisdom would dictate that we carefully consider the character of anyone we are considering for a potential marriage partner, however, we are in sin if we are deliberately avoiding marriage (the way I did for over a decade) for any reason. Feminist philosophy is loaded with this type of self-serving mentality. It turns our divine command to love one another into a barter system: "If and only if you treat me right, then I will respect and submit to you." The Bible places no conditions on the command to respect one's husband. So when we deliberately "choose" not to get married, it is because we've asked the question, "What's in it for me?" and decided the dividends were not high enough. Others (myself included) have remarked, "I don't want to ruin my life." Is this an accurate portrayal of love?

Jesus said there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends. But He wasn't just talking about one's physical death. He was talking about giving one's day-to-day life to others: living in service to other people. Christ gave His life, and every single Christian is expected to do the very same thing. We honor fallen war heroes who have given their lives for our country, but we forget that every day there are people all around us who have given their lives for others: parents, teachers, pastors, friends -- through the random acts of selfless service to you and me.

When I consider how I used to bellow, "I AM A ROCK!" I realize I have stolen one of our Lord's titles. This is prideful. This is presumptuous. This is sin.When I consider the gusto with which I used to belt out the lyric, "It's laughter and it's loving I disdain," I am faced with the realization that I have looked at God Himself with disdain. I have held in contempt the system of interconnectedness that He intended for me to have. How is this any less offensive to God than lying or stealing? When I consider how I used to bellow, "I AM A ROCK!" I realize I have stolen one of our Lord's titles. This is prideful. This is presumptuous. This is sin.

The world wants to lull us to sleep concerning these issues, and it endlessly encourages us to justify our sin. Last Sunday, my pastor stated in his message that the hardest word to get around in pastoral counseling is the word because: "I was mean to her because I was tired," or, "I stopped talking to him because I was angry." Does the word because justify our actions? Are we justified when we say, "I shut myself off because others have hurt me in the past"? Secular counselors would have us spend countless hours and dollars talking about why we did this or why we did that. Regardless of why, the fact remains we still behaved in a manner that displeases God, and He holds us accountable for our reactions to others' sin against us. Our excuses do not impress Him. We do not need counseling. We do not need therapy. We need to repent and forgive. Period.

Jesus urges us to put to death the deeds of the flesh. The Bible says that those who do such things are worthy of death, yet we continue to do them and give hearty approval to those who practice them. Consider what Simon and Garfunkel were suggesting in the following lyric: I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I was one of those who used to "connect" with others through books instead of fellowship. Instead of connecting with real people of flesh and blood I could touch and see, I connected with fictitious characters. The song may be forty years old, but the idea is the same. Only the methods have changed. We still may shun real relationships, but instead of hiding behind our books, we now hide behind our computers.

Though I am horrified to think that I once considered "I Am a Rock" to be my "theme song," I know that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, the one true Rock. It is only by Christ's power I could repent of this sin. I will always remember 2007 not only as the year I repented of isolation, but also as the year I refused to give any approval to those who practice it. It is the year I stopped asking, "What's in it for me?" It's the year I wrote a requiem for an anthem I should have outgrown a long time ago. Praise be to God for the freedom we have in Christ to be more than conquerors. May we all continue to grow in love and service toward one another in 2008.

1 comment:

Latisha said...

Wow Jenn,

Praise the Lord for the insights and the fires He's kindled for you to gain them. I'm so glad you did not abort His process of pruning and that you are bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. Now I am gleaning from you. You are such a gifted and wise communicator.