Leave me alone

I am not one for following celebrities. I find the scene irritating and shallow. Not to mention fickle. Today’s darlings are tomorrow’s sources of mockery. Elevated or torn to shreds by tabloid one-liners. Airbrush or not to airbrush? Depends on whether people love to love them or love to hate them. And somehow, we think we know them, and have the right to pass judgment on them.

This morning I caught some of a video history of Michael Jackson on Rage. It was a walk through his catapult to fame. The collection of clips marked the sad transition from a charming energetic little boy to reedy slick-moving teen, to eighties pop icon, culminating with a slow diminishing of the man himself. One of the clips stood out to me – “Leave me alone“. An old song, but I have never heard it or seen it before. The clip is startling because it features all the nasty headlines, innuendos, aspects of him that have been regularly mocked. Throughout the clip it seems he pleads “leave me alone”. It saddened me.

He is now dead. And still not left alone, as jokes, media etc pick over the bones to see what will sell another magazine. He certainly had issues. But how can we separate that from falling into the hands of the cult of celebrity, our need to create and elevate others to superhuman proportions. When they can’t handle it, we tear them down.  The results can be catastrophic.

I would not have liked to walk in his shoes.

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It must be love…

For a long time I have been pondering what it means to love God.  Contrary to some obscure what kind of “defective personality test are you” test I took randomly on Facebook (why take such things you may well ask? At least I didn’t publish it!), I am not wooden, but nor am I given to gushing emotion.  I am not one to splash the “I love you”  words around liberally.  And so I have come to wonder about God and love.  What and how do I love him?  We often sing songs at church about loving God.  “Jesus I am so in love with you” one song-writer croons.  But are we?   For me the “in love” phrase conjours up the domain of romantic lovers, exciting and passionate for sure.  But this love, for all its fire and energy, lacks depth, commitment, the burnished resilience that only the gritty journey of life together can forge.  It passes, is readily kindled and extinguished.  I don’t love Jesus in this romantic way.  However, I am not decrying intimacy with God.

I am reading Michael Frost’s book “Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post Christian Culture” at the moment.  He takes an interesting meander through the old testament’s language of God and love, and while the analogy is often used of the relationship between a man and a woman, it is always unflattering.  A relentlessly tragic story of unfaithfulness, the language often sordid and emotive.  A sad story of God remaining faithful to a people who continue to betray.  (Song of Solomon is a notable exception and probably an unecessary digression for the discussion here).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  And the second is like it.  Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Frost asserts that this passage “underscores the fact that for Jesus, it is impossible to love God apart from expressing that love physically and practically into the lives of our neighbours.”(p308).

Now this is something that resonates more for me, it is loving as a verb rather than some feel good sensation in my heart, stomach or whatever is the culturally acceptable seat of emotions.

Frost goes on to list nine different ways we can “love God”, beginning with a piercing quote from Rowland Croucher – “You love God just as much, and no more, than the person you love least.”  Here are the nine headings:

Love God by loving others

Love God by obeying Jesus

Love God by lingering in God’s company

Love God by speaking about the things of God

Love God by longing for the return of Christ

Love God by forsaking all other gods and idols

Love God by laying down our life

Love God by loving what he has created.

Love God by forgiving others.

I think Frost is onto something here.  There is much to unpack in nine sentences that holds a light to  the ways in which I love God, and the ways in which I fail to.

So then, of what shall we sing?