Posted by: ritagone | April 28, 2010

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

Things are not always what they appear to be on the outside.  This has always been true, but it often needs to be pointed out to us, because we are dense and thick and don’t get it.  (Or at least, I am.)

A few days ago I read this little piece about Lady Gaga, the current cultural icon in America, famous mostly because she is so flamboyant and “out there.”  “Few people who have seen her gyrate, thrust, or sing about life’s carnal pleasures will have seen this one coming.  Lady Gaga is telling her fans to stay celibate, just like her.  ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this – don’t have sex,’ the 24-year-old said.  ‘I’m single right now and I’ve chosen to be single because I don’t have the time to get to know anybody.  So it’s OK not to have sex, it’s OK to get to know people.  I’m celibate, celibacy’s fine.’  Speaking to raise awareness of the rising rate of HIV among women, Gaga reminded her following that having sex is not a must and that there is nothing wrong with being patient.  ‘I remember the cool girls when I was growing up,’ she said.  ‘Everyone started to have sex.  But it’s not really cool anymore to have sex all the time.  It’s cooler to be strong and independent.’”

Leo Tolstoy wrote some of the most idealistic, passionately spiritual books ever written.  From “Anna Karenina” to “War and Peace” to “Resurrection” to “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” Tolstoy preached the attempt to attain perfection so that one would win favor with God.  And yet, as Philip Yancey wrote: “Leo Tolstoy was a deeply unhappy man.  He fulminated against the Russian Orthodox Church of his day and earned their excommunication.  His schemes for self-improvement all foundered.  At times he had to hide the ropes on his estate and put away his guns in order to resist the temptation toward suicide.  In the end, Tolstoy fled from his fame, his family, his estate, his identity; he died like a vagrant in a rural railroad station.”

Like Lady Gaga, what you see is sometimes not what you get.  Tolstoy’s wife complained that although he practiced generosity and kindness toward others, she and her children never were on the receiving end of such behavior from him.

In both of these examples – and of course many more that come to mind – the truth that appearances can be misleading and wrong comes home.  Lady Gaga looks outrageous and acts even more so, which of course means that her behavior and her moral code must also be immoral.  Tolstoy looked righteous and sacrificing and desirous of being spiritual to those who watched him from the outside looking in, but to those who were on the receiving end of his nastiness, he was anything but Christ-like, try as he might to be holy.

So what?  What does this mean for you and for me today?  I think it means that we must be careful not to judge too severely what we’re looking at, knowing that there are layers upon layers beneath that surface that may speak other truths.  And it may mean that we need to keep an open mind as we observe people around us, understanding that what looks good externally may prove to be unwholesome…and what looks unwholesome can sometimes prove to be good.

I don’t know what makes Lady Gaga tick.  I don’t know why anyone would choose the stage name “Lady Gaga!”  All I know is that perhaps – just perhaps – beneath the costume and the flamboyancy lies someone who has thought about moral issues and come out on the side of righteousness, maybe not for the right reasons, but at least not promoting immorality when the culture seems to go in that direction so easily.

And I don’t know what inner demons and torments a brilliant man and writer like Leo Tolstoy lived with.  All I know is that – try as he might – the moral high ground escaped him.  Trying to live like Jesus, he wound up hurting and damaging the people he claimed to love the most.  And the relationship that was supposed to bring him solace and comfort could never quite chase the demons and torment away.

So when you look at people today, see them as Jesus sees them: incomplete, damaged, needing a Saviour, not always what appears on the surface of their lives.  Because that’s how people should see you and me.

Have a great weekend!  And be sure to register soon for CONNECT, coming in August!!  It’s going to be a great time together!

Regards,  Rita


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