Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oh, the irony...

I didn't grow up listening to the Carpenters… I was born too late. But when i picked up their record at a neighborhood estate sale last month I was filled with such vague feelings of nostalgia that I had to purchase it.

When I got home I put the needle down on their song, "Top of the World," and was immediately lifted on waves of affectation... I took Audrey's hand and we twirled around the living room, light as air… we listened to the song over and over again until, at a certain point, I began really listening to the words:

"Such a feelin's comin' over me," it begins,
"There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky
Got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream

Everything I want the world to be
Is now coming true especially for me…

I’m on the top of the world
looking down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found
Ever since you've been around

Your love put me on the top of the world..."

Isn't it ironic, I thought to myself, that the woman who composed these lyrics was found dead at the age of 32, in a closet at her parent’s home, on the same day her divorce was supposed to have been finalized?

…The coroner report said she died from heart failure brought on by anorexia.

From a career standpoint, Karen Carpenter was, in her place and time, "on top of the world"...and yet the circumstances that ended her life seem to suggest that her success wasn't what she thought it would be... and that it didn't satisfy her...

The next morning I read from John chapter 11 which describes how, two thousand years ago, a group of religious leaders conspired to take the life of Christ because they were threatened that his continued ministry - i.e. curing lepers and raising people from the dead - would attract attention and incite "the Romans [to] come and take away both [their] place and [their] nation" (v.53).

Again, I thought, sooo ironic… For the Pharisees’ act of aggression (which was really an attempt at self-preservation) accomplished the very thing they were seeking to avoid: Christ’s death not only brought about His resurrection - it led to the conversion of the Roman Empire, and established Christianity as the single-most influential force in the development of the Western world.

Interestingly, both Ms. Karen Carpenter and the Jewish religious establishment got what they wanted... at least, in the short term. And both must have experienced a momentary sense of satisfaction though the outcome of their striving was far from satisfying...

And yet I still want to control my life, believing that I know what is best for me... when the truth is, I am out of control...and I haven't the faintest clue what is best...

This would be a terrifying, and darkly depressing thought, if it weren't for two redeeming facts: first, God is in control; and second, He is good...

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel-prize winning author who was unjustly sentenced to more than a decade in various Siberian prison camps, said, “Looking back, I saw that for my whole conscious life I had not understood either myself or my strivings. What had seemed for so long to be beneficial now turned out in actuality to be fatal, and I had been striving to go in the opposite direction to that which was truly necessary to me. But just as the waves of the sea knock the inexperienced swimmer off his feet and keep tossing him back onto the shore, so also was I painfully tossed back on dry land by the blows of misfortune, and it was only because of this that I was able to travel the path which I had always really wanted to travel.”

Solzhenitsyn's period of imprisonment turned out to be a period of enlightenment... leading him to a transformation of soul that he could not and would not have otherwise achieved...

If I have learned anything in the last seven years it is that those circumstances I most wish to eliminate from my life are probably the very ones God is using to transform me... those things that I consider "blows of misfortune" may in fact be more rightly termed "acts of providence," keeping me on the path I truly want to travel.

So the moral of the story is that I must continue to hurl myself into God’s loving arms, embracing the truth that He is not only in control, He is in the process of accomplishing His purposes,even in the most absurd, befuddling, ironic, and painful areas of my life...

For inspiration (and perhaps the ultimate example of irony) I need only consider Christ's words as He looked forward to the most gut-wrenchingly painful moment of his life...compared to which my own pain seems paltry. “Now my heart is troubled," he said, "and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’


Joseph Anfuso said...

Beautiful, Heather. I find myself repeatedly impressed not only with the content of your postings, but their regularity. You are truly A WRITER, Heath...and a writer with something to say (that helps! :))

Shilo Taylor said...

I'm in agreement with your Dad. And all you said about the blows being what God uses to transform... oh, that strikes a chord! I was blogging yesterday about how dying to self never seems to end... just when I feel like I've done so & think "NOW I'm found in Christ" the process begins again on a completely new level. refresh my soul cousin & reading your work makes me giddy!