I remember a time when I wouldn’t abandon myself to anything. I was a teenager and I had a hard time fitting in because, in part, I wouldn’t allow myself to become a part of any one group. I wouldn’t throw myself into playing a musical instrument and let it be my passion. I wouldn’t throw myself into theater in High School and allow it to be my passion. This made me feel passionless and directionless.
I was a teenager during the 1970’s and it was a time that everyone was finding passion. People had great passion about the Vietnam war. People showed great passion in politics. People showed that they could easily abandon themselves in a whole new myriad of ways that I never could. I watched from the sidelines and felt daunted at trying to jump on into the fray. It was a time of freedom to explore and freedom to express. People abandoned themselves to drugs, alcohol, sex, the hippie movement, cults, eastern religions and rock and roll music. That’s a lot of people throwing off the chains of societies pressures to conform to a very ordered and defined way of life. But me? Nope couldn’t flick the switch and join in.
Now, I can see that was a good thing. I see how many potholes in the road of life I could have easily been swallowed up into and I am thankful that I chose to stay aloof.
Once, I took up the clarinet and I was bound and determined that I was going to play it. I was going to master that thing and play in an All City Orchestra. I set my goal and I took lessons. I practiced and practiced and never got any better than a squeaky beginner. I hung in there for two years and I really never improved. I could play the notes (somewhat) but I never could make the music. I finally gave it up. I wanted to abandon myself in the music but I couldn’t.
The interesting thing, in my view, about abandoning oneself in something may have more to do with other desires that aren’t expressed. I think that we abandon ourselves into things because we are looking for acknowledgment and acceptance. I also think we are looking for some kind of tag or label that we can pin on ourselves. For me, it was the label of being a musician. I am not sure that I really wanted to play the clarinet because I had a love for music or the clarinet but I wanted friends and I thought that if I learned the clarinet that I would be able to play in the All City Orchestra (that takes everyone) and then I’d have what I really wanted. I was using the clarinet to try and connect with other people and so I could never really abandon myself in the clarinet or the music. The clarinet was just a tool or means to an end and that is why it frustrated me.
I am not sure but I think we all abandon ourselves to something or someone at some point in our lives. We want to get so far into something that we feel a sense of accomplishment or privilege. We want the feeling that we belong to a special social group or organization. We want to feel the we have a “clan” of sorts. I think that’s human nature. Also, I think by abandoning ourselves into some things we find our passion. In the hands of a child who has very little in life, that same clarinet could have been a Godsend and means to earn a living in the future. So, I am not implying that abandonment is all bad, it does have its advantages.
I remember watching the TV when Charles Manson’s female followers were taken to trial. These three women held fast to what they had abandoned themselves in, namely Charles Manson’s Spawn Ranch cult. I also remember that they were smiling and acting glib. They acted as if they got the better of the world and they were in the right and all the rest of us suckers couldn’t touch them. I wonder if that is what abandoning ourselves to anything of this world does to us when it is taken to an extreme? I wonder if we become too willing to abandon ourselves, too deeply, into any one thing for long enough we will end up in a place we never bargained for?
Could it be that all the things that are in this world have the hook of wild abandonment?
In the bible, John writes in the book of Revelation that a beast will arise. He will be in alliance with the Antichrist. Most bible scholars agree that the beast is actually the world’s systems that lock us in place. On the outside these systems appear to have their positive benefits but once we examine the after effects of these world systems we see that these systems are corrupt, shallow and destructive. We come to rely on these systems and then we become disillusioned with them at the same time. The Justice system that isn’t always just; the Law Enforcement system that doesn’t always show impartiality; Governments that fail to be for the people, etc.
All these world systems have one thing in common. What is that one thing? People. They are established by people and they are run by people. Perhaps, if we could take the humanity out of the systems that run the world and drive the beast we might stand a chance of beating the system and truly becoming a world of people who are just, good, kind, impartial and fair? Yet, instead of abandoning the debunked world systems we embrace them even more. We cry out for more justice and then cry out that the Justice system is biased and unfair. We petition and we give our views all over the place. We run for public office and then work to undermine others in public office. We cry about the environment but we never change our own daily habits to decrease waste. We look to abandon ourselves in all our causes and yet fail in relieving the cause of our cause.
Perhaps, all of this social outcry isn’t at all about the cause that we have abandoned ourselves to? Perhaps, just as I was with the clarinet, we are a people looking for social acceptance, friendships and tags?
I actually do have one thing that I have abandoned myself in and that is faith in Jesus. Even now, I struggle with wanting to take myself back. I struggle with wanting to run back to the sidelines of faith and let another player take my place while I watch the game for a while. But, in Christ there is no shrinking back and there are no sideline spectators. Either, I am in the game or I am out of it and there is no other choice.
What brought all this up that I’m writing about it to you today? Well, I was reading in Psalm 40:2-6 in the Message bible and I read this, “He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.” Then it says, “Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God, turn your backs on the world’s ‘sure thing,’ ignore what the world worships; The world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts. Nothing and no one comes close to You!”
The things of this world, the fights of this world, the good causes of this world may bring us some, short-term results. But, I have learned that the things of God bring me the long-term results. As I abandon myself to Him I find that He sustains me. When my time on earth is over I know that He will take me home for all eternity to live with Him.
No politician, no musician, no supporting a cause, no law changing, no environmental cleanup, no passion, no other abandonment can promise that.
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