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Living With It (or not)

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Living With It (or not)

Tom Elenbaas

I have a pair of jeans that I really like. I don't know why. They just fit well and I feel comfortable in them. (No, they're not skinny jeans. Please don't imagine that...) But here's the problem. Soon after I bought them, the little metal button that holds them together at the waist pulled through the hole. Apparently, the hole that the jeans button tack goes through was cut too big. Initially I had some thoughts. I could have the hole sewn smaller, which was probably the best option. I'd already taken the tags off and didn't have the receipt. Then... when I finally got around to actually trying to sew the hole shut more, I could no longer find the button. Then, I figured, I could stop somewhere and buy a new jean button. Little did I know at the time that they even have something called the Instant Button for Jeans I could've gotten. But, I'm lazy when it comes to being a seamster. In fact, I have a sweater I really like that has a half inch hole in the shoulder I've wanted to wear all winter... but like I said, I'm lazy. I just decided I'd live with it. What would take me a quick swing into the store and a few minutes with some needle and thread is apparently too much work for me. So, I wear the jeans. How? They work fine with a belt, I just have to make it a little bit tighter, which hurts my stomach by the end of the day. That's kind of a pain and makes them less enjoyable a pair of jeans and I like to wear them less often. So, I guess living with it isn't the best way of dealing with it.

Last year, rapper Eminem (originally from Detroit) teamed up with Rihanna in a song called "Monster". Though I can't recommend his or her music due to the often obscene and profane lyrics, like many artists and movies in the culture today, the delve into some real humanity. Here are the somewhat haunting lyrics Rihanna sings over and over throughout the songs refrain:

I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
You're trying to save me, stop holding your breath
And you think I'm crazy, yeah, you think I'm crazy

I've been writing lately a little bit about how we are formed as humans and reformed by God - a passion of mine. What's interesting to me about the cultural message in this song is that the "character" played by Rihanna in the song is claiming friendship with the monster, the personal demons, the voices inside her head. The message seems to be that she's simply decided to live with it; to befriend the dysfunction; to embrace the inner monster (projected under the bed, or the closet, or whatever particular fear you're hiding from). The juxtaposition in the song is Eminem wrestling with using an "interventionist" named Jeff VanVonderen to help him through his issues. It's hard to tell whether Marshall Mathers (Eminem's other side, or Slim  Shady) is making fun of psychologists, counselors, and interventionists or whether he's serious that chasing the dream has lead to serious partnership with the inner monster from whom he wants release. Haven't we seen that lately, that sometimes chasing the wrong dream often leads to a compromise of a person's own inner self and strength, and friendship with the monster can lead to personal destruction? (cf. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Walker, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus)

So often we human beings can be torn between the dark side of ourselves and the person that God intends us to be. It's almost so cliche in movies that we don't even realize the truth of it anymore. We see villains in superhero movies who give themselves over to dark intent. We see that dark side of batman, or darker side of Wall Street, or the flip side of a New Orleans mayor, or the downside of childhood hero. But the reality is that this is a reality. Paul says in Ephesians that we are battling the spiritual forces of darkness every day. The reality is that we cannot "just live it." It's not that simple. Friendship with the monsters leads to a place where we eventually lose our humanity, or lose our minds, or lose our conscience, or lose our integrity, or lose our will, or lose our family, or lose our reputation, or lose our life. Rihanna hits it when she says, "And you think I'm crazy, yeah you think I'm crazy." Befriending the monsters can do that.

In the sermon I heard on Sunday from Tim Wilson, he suggested that in this battle, we are not called to suffer from, or even struggle with, but to fight against. That's a good word. In our culture today, neutrality about our own personal integrity, character, and formation is accepted and even lauded, but the reality is that personally it means losing ground. You don't have to live with it. You don't. And the longer your befriend your monsters, the harder it is to make the changes and find freedom. But know this, there is freedom in Jesus. He died with it so that you don't have to live with it anymore.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

-Charles Wesley


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