We forget love and immediately become tyrants, slaves, or fools when we believe God wants us to be more than his children; when we forget that we are adequate in our Father’s eyes exactly as we are, that our voices matter to him, and that he wants nothing more than to share life with us. The problem is not our failures or our lack of understanding or our lack of maturity. The problem is that we forget that we were never intended to live without God, beyond utter dependence upon him.
When I was a kid, I once read about President William Taft being buried in a coffin the size of a piano box. He was that big. That remains the main thing I remember about the man.
I’ve been terrified about the prospect of ending up in an oversized coffin ever since. So to speak. I mean, it’s one thing to live a life that others call misguided or foolishly self-destructive, but so long as I’m alive, there is still the chance that I can change. If I die and am buried, my family and friends will not only have to deal with normal grief, they’ll have to find a place for the anger they’ll feel about the foolish choices that will have led to my early demise. If I die from my sin, the shame becomes truly permanent. My life would be summed up as a tragedy of selfishness and gluttonous stupidity, a tribute to the choices I made to comfort myself rather than honoring the people whose lives were entwined with my own.
I don’t want to poison my family’s memory of me with anger, and I am horrified that I could do just that.
Ah, right there—the whorish lure of legacy-building. It’s not the hurting of my family that troubles me, it’s my legacy, the fact that I would never be able to correct my errors. I would be buried in shame. I care more about my reputation than I care about the people who love me.
I am a bruised reed. A lingering threat.
Legacies are not intended to be the pursuit of sons.
Back to my horror about my sins.
I’m only truly horrified when my sense of responsibility insists that it is up to me to fix things. Only when I believe that I made the bed and now I have to lie in it. Only when I believe that I dug myself into this mess, so now I have to dig myself out. Only when I believe that the issue is the result of a lack of discipline that I can somehow turn around if I gain a little more knowledge, a little more resolve, and a little more toughness. I panic when I find myself alone with my sin and the future it holds for me.
Part of what makes the shame so monstrous is my sense that the buck stops with me, and that the only chance I have for recovery is found in some miraculous change of personal strength. I have credibility with myself in the areas I’ve spent years trying to discipline only to fail there over and over again. I have completely stripped the gears in that part of my soul, and when I find myself trying to muster the “venture capital” for yet another program or tough and disciplined approach to the problem, I quickly find that I am no longer at all “bankable.” I simply do not believe myself when I promise to make it better, to change my ways, or to stick to the new program.
A coffin the size of a piano box.
I am powerless to escape that hateful destination.