Friday, June 26, 2009

Celebration in the face of sad news

Two big stories in the news lately come to mind. Obviously, the death of Michael Jackson, and the other one that sticks out to me is the Governor of South Carolina and his recent affair.

I think the thing that stands out to me is the way the world points its finger in judgment. And I find myself doing the same thing, so I guess I'm no better than the rest of the world now, am I?

And that very fact makes me stop and realize... I'm no better than either of these two people either, you know?

The truth is, maybe they're not all that different than you or I, despite having high positions and fame. They're still people. They have things about them that are good, and... flaws. We just happen to notice them more when they're so much in the public eye. And really, we want to drag them 'down to our level' not that I really think there is any level to drag them down to (or up to for that matter).

But because they've been blessed with the talents, abilities, skills, and opportunities to be in the public eye, we also know all about their flaws. And we judge them viciously.

I don't know, really, about whether Michael Jackson ever did the things he's accused of. So I won't try to speculate whether he did. I can't help but think that when it's all said and done he didn't know how to cope with all the stuff that comes with the level of fame he achieved. Who knows what kind of affect it had to be a star at childhood to the point that, maybe he never really got to be a kid.

I guess it really doesn't matter right now. There's a circus going on right now but when it's all said and done, some kids lost their father. There are people who lost a family member, others who lost a good friend. The fact he was famous doesn't change anything, the pain of losing someone close is just as real for them as it is for us. It's incredibly sobering to see it all. So much of the commentary I hear lately is about how there was so much potential and ability and yet the tragedy of it all is how this is a man who in the end was mocked so much.

But that's not so different than real life for everyone else, is it? Loss like that is difficult because it's final. There's no chance now to change things. Michael was working on making a comeback, but it won't happen. That's how it always seems to happen for us because we think there can be that comeback, that those things that are flawed can be improved, but then something happens and it can't be.

And the other story is the whole deal with Governor Sanford taking off for awhile, where his affair with this other lady all comes to light. And again, we see the humanity, how the reality of life is pretty much the same whether you're famous, whether you've got power, or you're just an ordinary person.

I hear the venom from people on both sides of the aisle. I see the world shaking their heads at this guy. I hear people on the radio saying they can't imagine how someone could do such a thing. There's contempt because this was a guy who was all about family values and look what he did. And yet... if you get down and examine the lives of all the critics (including you and I), how many of these critics have their own secrets and sins that just haven't been brought to light? Who are any of us to compare and criticize?

None of us can really understand why he did what he did. I mean, how can a man with such power (some considered him a potential candidate for President) throw it all away by doing something so stupid? But have we ever considered that if a guy in his position does what he does despite all of the risk, there have to be some powerful emotions and factors at play that we cannot begin to imagine?

This is in no way trying to justify anything that either of these men may have done. I just know that... I know how it feels to have screwed up, I know how it is to feel the weight of peoples' judgment, much of it earned.

And I know what the grace of God means to me. Something that's taken a long time to really begin to appreciate.

Maybe that's what this is about in the end. The weight of the world's judgment comes down on these two figures, but to me it just shows that here are a couple of men who, despite their talents and fame and power, we see their flaws. We see men who know pain, whose failures are there for the world to see. We can go on and on about how they should have done things differently, that there's no real excuse for things that were done, and we'd probably be right.

And yet, the failures and the flaws are there. Just like they are there for you and I.

And maybe in the end, these stories are something to celebrate. Because they point out something about the reality of the human condition, and that is, that it is deeply flawed. Our sins and our weaknesses bring us all short, whether we are ordinary people living ordinary lives, or lives of power and prestige. And no, the fact that everyone fails and has flaws is not the part that is to be celebrated.

The celebration is that our fate, our end does not have to be determined by the mistakes we make, no matter how terrible. God saw those flaws, those weaknesses, those sins that are part of us. And instead of pointing the finger like we're so prone to doing, he did something about it. He sent his son.

What incredible hope! THAT is the celebration... because at least for me these things remind me of my own sin... and remind me of the incredible Grace God has given me. And all of a sudden... life is good.

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