“The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out…”
(1 John 2:17, The Message)
“And this world is fading away…”
(1 John 2:17, New Living Translation)
Allow me to tell you about a near-tragic night when I almost chose to end it all.
It was January, the calendar had recently flipped over to 1978, and the night air was frosty clean. You know the kind of air I mean; such that makes even your lungs feel brand new. And was I ever pulsating with life! I had just taken my girlfriend home and was looking forward to our prolonged good-night ritual. Nothing dirty, mind you, just your garden variety hand-holding, kissing, small talk and listening to 8-tracks. My choice was always Manilow, hers Fogelberg.
We’d been dating for a year or so and both of us were seniors at our own respective high schools; she, at a public high school a half-block from her house and I, at a christian school across town. We met at work, of all places. She worked the jewelry counter at a department store and I was one of three stock boys. The girl was everything to me! Other female employees thought we made the cutest couple while my mates constantly made kissing sounds whenever I ventured near her counter, never having the end of their taunting and teasing. Me, I could care less. I was smitten with she of the auburn hair. I had hopelessly fallen. Hard. Only seventeen, but she was definitely the one.
The prolific engine of her soft blue ’78 Camaro hummed as it idled in the driveway while we snuggled up in the interior warmth and sat silently in the reverie. Flecks of snow began to hit the windshield and within moments the late evening sky was shaking out an abundance of thick white flakes. I kid you not, amid the wintry ballet all around us, the radio was spilling out the words,
“I think about winter, when I was with her
And the snow was falling down
Warmed by the fire, I love being by her
When there’s no one else around…”
It was truly the most romantic time I’d ever experienced in my young life. I was falling headlong in love with her all over again. I looked deeply into her eyes just then, but saw something that troubled me. I saw doubt. Clearly she wanted to say something but was having difficulty forming the words. It seemed she was not in the same place I was and, finally, the words came out. She held my hand with both of hers and her eyes began to tear.
I drove away that night angry, sad, confused, broken. She had told me there was a boy at her high school she had become close to and he asked her out. And she had told him yes. She said she didn’t want to break up with me, but wanted to explore a bit so that her heart would know for sure if we were meant to be together. I angrily told her far be it from me to stand in her way, and left her in the driveway. And this is where the story of my life could have changed dramatically.
My eyes blurred with tears all the way home and the roads were becoming slippery with newly fallen snow. Rather than drive carefully, I picked up speed, not caring if I wrapped my VW around a telephone pole or not. My life, as I assessed it, was over and I wasn’t just flirting with suicide, I was planning on it. I cried out to the heavens, asking God why this happened. I pounded the steering wheel with my hands repeatedly and kept wiping pools of tears from my eyes. At one point I steered my car in the direction of a telephone pole but pulled up just before the point of no return. And it was all over a girl.
Fast forward about six months. I was having lunch at a steakhouse restaurant with some mechanics from a Buick dealership where I worked for the summer, when, who should walk in but my former girlfriend’s mother. She saw me, smiled and walked over. What is this? I wondered. After her warm greeting she told me her daughter knew she made the biggest mistake of her life when she let me go and wondered if I might give her a call. I told her I would. I know what you’re thinking: no! Her loss, too bad, so sorry, but she dumped you and you’ve gotten over her.
Alas, I did call her and we set up a date to a mid-summer Braves game. From the moment I picked her up the date was over before it began. Any feelings I once felt for her were gone. The sheen of love had worn off. I laughed internally at the ridiculousness of my behavior on that winter night when I even contemplated ending it all over this girl. We laughed that night, held hands only briefly, enjoyed the game and I took her home. No driveway ritual that night, no strings, no violins, no romantic music. I never called her again.
How ironic that one night I’m falling in love and the next night we’re together (with a six month interlude), Iove had faded with nary a whimper. Saints, is this not what we are called to with respect to this world? Should we be in a love affair with something that is fading and being forced aside for the Greatest Treasure? Much of the church, however, suffers from REHOBOAM SYNDROME.
The second king to rule after David in Israel, Rehoboam knew the lavish life. Gold ran like water in his father Solomon’s Israel. Everything gleamed of gold. What chocolate was to Willy Wonka’s factory, gold was to David’s son’s realm. The sheen upon the empire was more glorious than any dynasty had ever known. When Rehoboam ascended to the throne, he royally messed things up. He was a spoiled brat and horrible leader and the empire fell apart under his watch. His piteous legacy was sealed with a foreign army’s invasion of Judah who stole all the gold, including the gold shields his father had made.
The oddest thing about that. At the end of 1 Kings 14 we read that Rehoboam had new shields made, fashioned from brass. Shiny, yes, and they no doubt looked good in the sun’s light when paraded, but still not gold. Fool’s gold. Not worth squat. I’ve got news for you: this world is fading. It is degrading. It is sliding ever downward from Eden to Babylon. It is devolving from gold to bronze to aluminum to dust. From diamond to zirconia to glass. And still we hold onto it with all our might. Still we march beneath its best, even if its best has become brass.
Love not the world, John says. He was referring to the unredeemed world’s culture, values and pleasures that are hostile or indifferent to God’s reign. Me, I’ve had kind of a love-hate relationship with the world through the years. I look back on years where I couldn’t get enough of its passing pleasures, when I needed to know all the stats of my favorite teams and all the movies that were scheduled for release. But the longer I walk with God, the more I am aware that those passions are fading.
And while the world comes calling, asks where I’ve been hiding, tells me it misses me, assures me it will be like I remember it, etc., and if I am stupid enough to capitulate, I’m amazed to find it doesn’t move me like it once did. Its age is showing. The moths and rust have begun their inevitable work. I realize I’m not love-sick like I was. My heart is beginning to ache for Another.
- I am lovesick for my Beloved
My Beloved and my Friend
Only You can satisfy
Try as I may to chase another lover
I find there is, there is no other
For only You can satisfy
And happy am I to live a hungry life
Blessed am I to thirst
Disillusionment, it is my gift within
I am blessed, I am blessed among men!
“Lovesick” by Misty Edwards