PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: HOW TO AVOID THE PATH THAT LEADS TO “DEADNESS INSIDE”.
Chuck Colson, in his book Born Again, tells how he came to the conclusion that you can succeed, by all the standards of the world, even in pursuing all the right goals, and still end up empty and “totally dead inside”. Months of struggling, of strategizing, of sacrifice had paid off in a landslide victory for Richard Nixon in 1972. He won 49 states, and carried 61% of the vote-a record victory at that time. President Nixon, H.R. Haldeman, and Chuck Colson were together in the Oval Office celebrating. Haldeman was arrogant and sullen; Nixon was gulping scotch; and Colson was feeling let down and defeated for some reason. In his own words he writes, “there was an unexplainable deadness inside of me!” Three men at the power pinnacle of the world and not a single note of joy discernable in the room. He explained, “If someone had peered in through some imaginary peephole in the ceiling of the President’s office, what a curious site it would have been: a victorious president grumbling over the words he needed to say to his fallen foe; his chief of staff angry, surly, and snarling; and the architect of his political strategy sitting in a numbed stupor”. Colson explained his emptiness as best he could-“We worked hard for something, got it, and realized we didn’t really want it! Being part of electing this president was the fondest ambition of my life; For three long years I committed everything, every ounce of energy to Richard Nixon-all I had now in return was a total emptiness and deadness inside of me!”
How can you explain that? C.S. Lewis said it best. He said, “If you aim at heaven, you will get earth thrown in. If you aim at earth-you will get neither!” That is exactly what Colson had done. He found it in the end to be hollow-empty-a chasing after the wind! Peggy Noonan, a speech-writer for Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush explains how we have lost our perspective on living in our generation. In an article in Forbes magazine she wrote, “I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated. We have lost somehow a sense of mystery about us-our purpose-our meaning-our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds and saw this one as the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short one. We are the first generation of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused us such unhappiness! The reason? If you do not believe in another higher world-if you believe in only this flat, material world around you-if you believe this is your one and only chance for happiness-if this is what you believe, you are not disappointed when the world does not give you good measure-YOU ARE DESPAIRING!” That is what Colson had discovered! You and I will too if we do not find something “bigger than ourselves to give our life’s energies to.” That is why Dostevesky wrote, in his book The Grand Inquisitor, these haunting but true words-“without clear perceptions of his reason for living, man will never consent to live, and will rather destroy himself, than tarry on earth”. How often have we seen that?
Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, wrote about how important it was to take advantage of opportunities that come our way to make our lives count for more than just the temporary passing things of this world. He wrote, “Not seldom in life, whenever on the right side, fortune’s favorites sail close by us, We though all adroop before, catch somewhat of the rushing breeze, and joyfully our bagging sails fill out!”. That is what happened when Jesus Christ crossed paths with lives that were looking for fulfillment and meaning. The power of His presence and Spirit filled their sagging sails and took them in a direction they never dreamed of going. But they had to agree to raise their sails by making that first step to follow Him. If we miss that by not following his call-we will find ourselves identifying with Chuck Colson-“overwhelmed by the total deadness inside”. Eternity will then be a regret for us. The great English poet of the 1900’s-William H. Auden wrote of this regret. He wrote:
“God my reduce you
on judgment day
to tears of shame
by reciting by heart
the poems you would have written
had your life been good”
Hearing His call to follow him, putting your hand to the plow and never looking back is the only way to make your life good, and make it count for the most in eternity. That is the road less traveled, but most worthy of traveling. Years ago, Barry McGuire, who wrote and made famous the song Eve of Destruction, came to embrace Christ as his Savior. He surrendered his all and to this day is a faithful follower of Christ, and a relentless witness. A reporter quizzed him about his conversion. He asked, “is it true that you too have jumped on the Jesus bandwagon?” McGuire replied, “Absolutely! And it is the only bandwagon going anywhere! Come on along!” Great idea! Come on along!