Back in the late 60s, when I was a grade schooler, we would come home about three p.m. from Bel-Air Elementary. On TV, the reruns included such stuff as Gilligans' Island, The Beverly Hillbillies and whatnot. But the real action was the reruns of Star Trek! Now, there is some entertainment for an eleven year old boy!
It is odd (now) to watch those old shows, they seem so shallow; or is it insipid? I have a hard time trying to regather the emotion, the "oomph" of just why I found the program to be so powerful as a sixth grader. Really, one of the few ideas which showed up in the show (occasionally) which has stuck in my cerebrum (or where-ever) for 45 years is; "the auto destruct sequence"
You know the drill, some dire strait or another in which Kirk & Co. have landed, gives them no choice but to blow the good ship Enterprise to smithereens! So, the chief officers, one by one go through the protocol (talking to 'computer') to verify and authenticate the legitimacy of the process. Of course, this is attended by a Cape Kennedy type of countdown, and what with one thing and another, the crew finds a last ditch reason to over-ride the command. But, we knew that was going to happen. To my young ears, this was compelling stuff indeed!
We were talking in the Sunday school class today about "the beauty of failure" of which I ought be some sort of expert at by now. I still (by in large) do not "get" the concept. Failure is one of the very few things in this life that I am really any good at. And even there, we get mixed results. That odd occasion of sometimes getting something more or less correct, ruins my "streak"! So, if the goal was to become a uniform and consistent failure, well I'm no good at that! A failure at being a failure, how depressing is that?
Some folks find (I believe) this sort of rumination to be "negative" or "too hard on myself". I haven't the froggiest fig-newton of why they think so. It seems darkly humorous to me, a bit like being unable to consistently recognize your own image in a mirror. The auto-destruct sequence is basic to "who we are" or at least who we were.
We, generally speaking; much prefer to "not-look" at this type of dynamic in ourselves. When others begin the countdown, we attempt to put them off of it, to distract or perhaps compliment them into a more sanguine mood. It (our strategy I mean) is like Scotty trying to amuse the rest of the crew during the computer count down with a joke, and dancing a little jig.
The auto-destruct sequence has many faces, and appears to be one of my favorite strategies. As a mental image, picture a pilot of a fighter-bomber "having a thing for" hitting the "eject" button, perhaps?
If one is even able (questionable) to look at life realistically, the ideas of "hope" and of a better tomorrow seem pretty darned vapid. The beauty of drinking isn't so much the glamour of stumbling around and making a fool of yourself. But rather, the sharp focus of seeing what a crazy dump we live in (and keep rebuilding!) is temporarily fuzzied. By drinking, we are actively trying to ruin things. But what we forget while in the process of drinking is the next day.
The interior wreckage, that physical exhaustion, plus the familiar sense of feeling like crap on a windshield (the next day), is what the drinker is so busy building. This, we forget, and it is but a variant of the auto-destruct. I think I can grasp the intention of why we build that. People say that; "Nobody wants to feel bad about themselves", but the fact is that they already do! The "problem" to be solved is much more along the lines of; "Why do I feel so chipper and glad, given what a trainwreck I have made of things? Shouldn't there be some evidence of the mayhem?" So, we build hangovers to verify who we (think) we are! Or, at minimum, that is what I used to do.
The auto-destruct is a slow motion thing, a type of half-hearted suicide. We might deem it a self authored tentative eviction notice mayhaps? There is something terribly wrong with ourselves, and with the world. We are quite certain at this juncture. The thing begins to balloon at about the same time that we identify "the problem area". It is as-if we were going to utter a repair strategy to "fix things". It doesn't much matter what we identify as the "source" of the troubles, in that the process uniformly breeds in us a superiority complex. We end up thinking; "Why can't people just be more (fill in the blank here as you like); and things would be so much better!". This type of brain talk guides us infallibly to the conclusion that the real problem is "out there", and moreover that if and when "they wake up"; things shall improve and not otherwise. I did this sort of head trip for many years, and it never made any difference how hard I pushed "the fix", people would just not learn! Shocking, ain't it?
The auto-destruct sequence lives somewhere in this neighborhood. To validate hopelessness "out there", is to unwittingly validate it also (and stronger!) "in here". I (technically) become a "failure" in this case, at waking-up others. It's just that I am not really very good at it (failure I mean). Hit the "eject" button . . . again. Our interior chaos has oddly predictable patterns, we keep building the same thing over and over.
For at least twenty years, as an "adult"; I used to say; "You want to know what I want out of life? I will tell you, I . . . want-out. . . of life!". Strangely, this was not well received. Life seemed like a bizarre game in which you can only be penalized, a sort of ever downward spiral, such that even what you try to do right is only more evidence against you? And I (for one) concluded that the basic premise then would be to do damage control soonest, and cease adding to the deficits! "Just show me the EXIT sign already, and I will cease making things worse, it ain't much; but it is the best I can do." and that; was the decades long brain noise I built.
Now, our normal heart furniture tends strongly to disallow this type of response, and next thing I knew, I became the one "tut-tutting" my own self in order to shrink or contain the auto-destruct which (in reality) was the best answer I am capable of. I came to strongly disagree with myself "in principle"! Talking to yourself isn't so bad, the arguments are worse . . . but worst of all, when you lose the argument!
I am convinced that The Almighty knows this about us, He is well aware of this habit of ours of creating wrecks. In my own opinion Of Him (which was far too low) I thought He was on the "chipper" team. Those pastors with the over large crosses about their necks, saying things like; "That's just super" about things like growing radishes, kinda made me want to puke. The whole "encouragement" drill seemed to be awfully pasty and thin if it didn't have any courage or guts to it. This feminine and squishy nice guy theory just doesn't wash. We end up with a "god" who kinda loafs around until we decide (all on our own) to take our finger off the trigger? We end up with yet another voice telling us to; "Try harder", and this garbage is supposed to somehow qualify as "good news"? "Park it where the sun don't shine pard, ain't interested", was (and still is) my response.
The way to get past the blender is to go through it, the path leading into the meat grinder is the correct one. This (in part) explains our fascination with extreme sports, and with death defying stunts. Life is inherently "unsafe", start there. Because (you see?) we know something about ourselves. We can hide from it, we can temporarily forget it due to distraction or stupor, but it won't go away. Death is "the answer" as far as we are able to see. It is simply this, He sees farther!
That is, He is not "against" our auto-destruct sequence in the least. It is just that it does not go far enough! We have one piece of the puzzle, and it is a keeper, but it ain't the entire picture. The reason we (or at least I) keep rebuilding a collapse, a failure, an offense to others is that it must come! "And if Mr. Almighty upstairs hasn't the wherewithal to whack me for it, I shall manage it myself! So, let me get this right, I have to do my job, plus His too? And this is the same Guy telling me; 'To be perfect?!'. An Almighty loafer nice guy, just what we needed. . ." This was the sound of the brain racket in me for years! And that was about as far as I could see, before He came to meddle in my affairs. But hear me, I was right . . . but never right-enough.
He doesn't take away from the truth we know about ourselves, He corrects by filling in the parts we cannot see. The auto-destruct sequence itself is destructive not because it is wrong headed, but because it is incomplete, and a half-measure.
Our grasp of things is inherently "negative" and we (stupidly) attempt an over-ride with the "positive" as a sort of check or balance to keep ourselves from going too far. I have no beef with that inner strategy, except to note that it is a stopgap. It is like pouring molasses on sand, it slows the motion downward, and maybe that is alright. Perhaps it was more time which we required after all, but time for what?
My Dad used to say things like; "We shall all stand naked before God to give an answer". This sounded like a terrible idea to me! Yes, he had "stand" right, and also "give an answer" correct; it was "naked" which was never enough. To complete the picture, to find the missing pattern, we need clothing. It was the best that Dad could do, and it was never good enough, in this; he "is us". My look at this sort of thing led me to conclude; "If things are that dire, the sooner I can cease adding evidence in the case against me, the better!". I was right and it was the best I could do, and it was never enough. That "is us".
The good news of the auto-destruct sequence is that He built and owns the sucker. In His hand, it is applied correctly, for our good, and to His praise. Does that sound odd to you? What then of the testimony; "I tell you the truth, I die daily, it is no longer 'I' who live, but Christ (Jesus) who lives in me"? In Him, our concept of the "finger on the button" gets pushed; as JFK would have said "with vigah!".
If back on the U.S.S. Enterpise, they once had carried out to the end the auto-destruct; I suppose that would have been the end of the series? But they always drew back, "just in time". He does not draw back, and applies the death sanction to us. The beauty is that on the "other side of death", is a life we have not yet guessed at. Gospel asserts boldly that this process is already begun! We agree with that testimony. The end of me is not "the end", but rather, a surprising new kind of beginning.
One of the mind sets of the hip generation includes the phrases; "Getting your 'stuff' together", and "getting your head screwed on right". The unspoken premise is that one can (and ought!) get ones' proverbial poop in order, that is; it is do-able. And as long as we are stuck in that miserable rut, we personally guarantee the auto-destruct to manifest in our actual doings. Through bitter experience, I say so!
Is it drugs or sex you would rather fail at? Or, how about some combination? Is it driving while drunk, or doing a crooked business deal in which you shall surely be caught which you prefer to build? Somewhere, somehow we are determined to apply negative sanction, to exhaust and ruin . . . ourselves. We must, because it is the right thing to do! "And if God is too gutless to smack me down, I'll do it!", this is the sound of our misery. Gospel predicts correctly instead that the auto-destruct finds its' true home when we "go low".
When we agree with our pride and ambition being scuttled, when we embrace our loneliness and sorrow, when we die to any hope of ever "getting it together", then into the meat-grinder we walk. . . gladly! The central axiom of the good news has two legs. One, Jesus is Lord (as in Lord GOD) whether you like it or not, and two, that He has busted out of the tomb. These combined, alter the shape of reality; by addition and by an abundant overflow. It does not say; "You are wrong about everything". It says; "Keep what is true, and add to it!".
This sort of talk is "man-talk". The three being cast into the fiery furnace possessed "balls". And it is just here that I find our western church to be so lacking. We have forgotten the connect between courage and loyalty to the death, with our flimsy, and girlish usage of the word "encouragement". A man never "backs down on what is right"! That is just the way it is, deal with it. Our problem is not an unshakable insistence upon "right", but rather that we have been blinded, that we live in a dark world. We see not-far at all.
He knows this about us.
As the True Owner-Operator of the auto-destruct sequence, He is not "saddened" by our conclusions. He is not "surprised" at our patterns of rebuilding the wreck. It is simply that we are unable to wreck deeply enough. Our puny hangover, our lousy disputes with the "ex", do not ever cut deeply enough! It is for lack of passion, not the excess thereof He scolds!
Individually and collectively, we build a future collapse. And whether it is a war, or an economic depression, whether a bad needle habit, or chronic emotional depression we of human-kind shall keep on finding ways to crash.
The beauty and innovation, the sheer genius of Gospel is simply that death "in Him" is survivable! The King of the Jews is the evidence, the Guarantor of life, the Executor of the sentence and the Redeemer back from destruction. We provide the destruction, until He gets here, and does the job right!
The way out is down, the way home is in being lost. The way of gladness is to embrace sorrow as friend and counselor. There is a new thing in earth!
He, the Aroma of Life, He the Captain Brave, He the Lily of the valley, Fairest of ten-thousand. He is "the new thing"! The one Loyal Son has pledged Himself. . . to the death, and beyond!
Unthinkably, far and far beyond.