Those observing this Lenten season understand it’s not about us. It’s a time for discovering ways to reflect on Christ, His death, Resurrection and ultimate return. His way. Not ours. When a toddler throws a tantrum to get “their way” surprises no one. When an adult does, it’s a cautionary sign to navigate carefully around one who’s fully committed to “My Way or the Highway” at any cost. Unwilling to bow a knee.
Nearly sixty years ago, Frank Sinatra recorded, “My Way,” a song written by former rock n roll heart throb, Paul Anka, in 1967, for Sinatra. That song, whose lyrics of individual defiance has been played at funerals, Trump’s inaugural ball, and covered by nearly every vocalist, from Elvis Presley to Sid Vicious. Anka reportedly said, “I’d never written something so chauvinistic, narcissistic, in-your-face and grandiose.” Admittedly, it personifies too many contemporary lives. We’ve seen this rerun. It’s not comedic.
Sadly, that “My Way” philosophy hasn’t ended well. History’s replete with perilous outcomes, wrecked lives, and for those who belatedly discovered that, like Bourdain, Cobain, Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Robin Williams, and too many others, those who’ve sought externally, for what was vacant internally. Most know someone who exited terribly. Tinsel Town has a morose, storied history of suicidal endings. “Charmed lives” cut short at their own hand.
In spite of a myriad of crisis hotlines and suicide prevention initiatives, suicides nationwide, are on the rise again. There are no statistics on those who failed, yet relegated themselves to a hopeless existence of regret and pain. According to the Wyoming Health Department, more teenagers and adults die of suicide than cancer, heart disease, birth defects and other maladies combined. Most of us withstand the vicissitudes of life; that ebb and flow of our journey. Mortals are resilient, adaptive and recover from troubling times. Most troubling is that something changed drastically for many.
Consider a larger swath of the population who are addicted to opioid and drug abuse, alcoholism, mental disorders and loss of hope, take their own life-beckoning eternity on their own misguided, reckless schedule. Abdicating the rescue of those at risk for suicide, to a wholly secular approach, is like leaving CPR training to the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who, in the end, rejected is own draconian advise of assisted suicide.
Whatever modality interventionists are pressing to counter suicide, isn’t working. It’ll take more than a dose of happy talk, telling youngsters, carte blanche, “You can do anything, or be anything you want!” There’s a cavernous gap between the message and reality, that adolescents are ill-equipped to calculate. They clumsily mimic adults’ feeble attempt to do it “Our Way.” Absent wise Godly counsel, most outcomes will be equally destructive. Our knee-jerk reaction, we throw up our hands, feigning that we are horrified at the carnage. Like giving the car keys to an eight year old, then be shocked they end up in a ditch.
It’ll take a real “bridge over troubled waters” to curtail suicide and wrecked lives. In a culture driven by memes and posts, Americans are masterful at treating symptoms, yet fail to unearth core issues. We’ve been warned of the dangers of prescription and illicit drugs, alcohol abuse, and dependency based upon substances and materialism. How many adults sleep and awake abetted by a prescription? Younger generations observe adult habits in excess, seeking their own version of “happy hour.” Our culture’s driven by “happy hour” mentality turns out to be “not so happy.” Evangelicals understand the enticement of transient allurements, and, that absent an enduring relationship with Christ, one’s subject to being tossed to and fro by besetting temptations and attraction of a world’s endless trappings. None are exempt from debilitating habits. However, Christians are assured of an immovable anchor during tumultuous personal storms, that would’ve otherwise stranded us on the shore of despair.
In this secularized culture such notions sound archaic, and are quickly dismissed as religious mumbo-jumbo. For centuries, those who’ve embraced this unshakeable foundation, will attest to its’ puissant outcomes. Never have we needed the transforming message of the Gospel more. Sadly, we’ve indulged generations of individuals with undisciplined, insatiable appetites for addictive lifestyles, obsequiously transmitting this flawed model to future generations.
Boasting a life of doing things “My Way” on any level, has a trajectory fraught with danger and predictably disastrous consequences. Old Testament seers rarely found stubbornness flattering. Jeremiah observed, “But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned aside and gone away.” Isaiah’s rebuke, “Listen to me you stubborn people, you distance yourself from doing what is right.”
The undercurrent that runs through this unfolding melodrama is self-deception, likened to the haunting words of Sir Walter Scott, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” Are we too big for our breeches? Staying in God’s word’s a barricade against deception and other carnal maladies common to all. Deception’s a lie wrapped in a fetching package nearly anyone would eagerly unwrap.
As Biblical underpinnings and promises are supplanted by secular idioms, our nation has generations, young and old alike, who’ve swallowed the bitter root of secularism, leaving a residue of ashes and unconsolable emptiness. Suicide’s the symptomatic price we’ve paid. Often learned too late, our offspring eventually discover that materialism won’t alter this postmortem. Ultimately it ends in despair. It’s a flimsy foundation when life’s imploding us. Many can no longer bear the pain that eclipses our mortal reach.
Therapy’s limited. One’s inner yearning cannot be gratified by fatuous confidence in human frailties. In this world of inevitable uncertainty, finding rest for one’s soul is essential. In the midst of burdensome affliction, Jesus beckons us to find comfort in Him. That’s the good news of renewal. To ignore that, only adds delusion to the pain. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org