“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6.31-33
I told a friend the other day that a sure sign of aging is not that we do not know who the people are on magazine covers at checkout stands, but that we do not care who they are. Still, you would have to live in a cave not to have heard the debacle surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith. The media is filled with endless, mindless chatter about her, every discoverable detail of her life and death. Starting with an obligatory comment regarding her tragic, untimely death, there follow all sorts of sordid, tawdry details of her life. As a nation, we gawk at the squalid events in silent relief and/or hidden satisfaction that, whatever our shortcomings, we are not as wretched as she.
As surely as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He weeps for every life gone astray, every wasted gift, every deformed desire, and every starving soul that consumes the world until the world destroys it. Every time her image flashes across the screen, I wonder who God intended her to be when He created her? Here was this lovely human being with a flair for the dramatic and an apparently insatiable desire to be known and admired. Who did God have in mind when He formed her in the womb? I think we should be silent in the face of the great truth of humanity: every human being is fundamentally the same.
The underlying desires and needs of Anna Nicole Smith’s heart were no different than our own. The one thing no one has said is that the things that drove Ms. Smith drive us. She wanted to be noticed, secure, loved, appreciated, admired, famous, wealthy and much more. Mostly, she wanted to be wanted. In some degree, every human being possesses exactly the same longings; they are innate to us because they are given to us by our Creator. We long to matter and to be memorable. The greatest yearning of the human heart is to be fully known and fully loved.
Until we come to the realization that we are fully known and fully loved by Christ, and until we come to understand that we matter in our Father’s Kingdom, we search in vain for anything to satiate the unquenchable thirst of the soul. Jesus’ instructions sound imposing and restrictive, but in reality, He is giving us the secret of Life. If we let go of all the things we pursue for satisfaction and seek our Father, then the deepest desires of our hearts will be granted to us and everything else will be added to us. We cannot starve to death as gluttons of the world if we have been fed first by our Father’s Spirit. All the respect, all the admiration, wealth and fame in the world cannot stop the soul from dying; only the Life of the Spirit staves off encroaching death.
This is the season of Lent, the season of sacrifice, penance and repentance. It all sounds so dreary – fasting, self-denial, giving of self, helping the poor, and the like. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we let go of the world a little, then the Spirit can pour upon us the Life we crave. Lent is a blessing, really. It is the intentional opportunity to let go of the fast-food life of the world in order to feast at the banquet of Christ.
We are invited to enjoy creation and all that is in it. Our Father designed it for us, for our needs, and for our pleasure. But we can never confuse the enjoyment of creation with the joy of our Creator. Only One is all-sufficient. The majesty and dignity of human life cannot be satisfied by creation; we do not find peace for our souls until we rest in the heart of our Father.
I pray that Christians simply express sadness for Ms. Smith’s death, that we choose not humor nor condescension nor judgment. For her life, Christ also died, but she didn’t know; she didn’t understand. She is certainly not alone in that, but she paid with her life.
Invest in letting go for Lent. Let go of the things you desire. Loosen your grip on the world that beckons you. Trust that your Father really does know what you need. Seek Him first and allow Him to supply your needs. This is the enormous, and enormously practical, difference between Life and death.
In Christ –
Ó Servants’ Feast Ministry, 2007