I checked my Twitter feed Monday afternoon, before leaving the office to head home. That’s when I first learned of Robin Williams’ death.
His death may not be the media event that Elvis’s or Michael Jackson’s death were. But I think there may be shared national sadness over Robin’s. His work as an actor and comedian charmed, delighted and moved so many of us. Even when we couldn’t see him, as was the case in the movie Aladdin, he still made us smile and laugh.
His ongoing battle with substance abuse and depression were well documented throughout his life. Robin’s suicide brought to mind people I’ve known over the years who responded to the persistent darkness in their own souls in the same way.
There was the dad who lived three doors down from us when I was growing up. I was good friends with his daughter when her daddy took his life.
And there was the co-worker who went to see the Passion Play in Eureka Springs years ago, and walked into the parking lot and ended her life.
And I thought again about my own father’s battle with his personal demons. He did not succumb to suicide, but he turned to drinking for many years in an attempt to medicate the pain in his soul.
I thought too of the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon. He confessed to his own bouts with deep sadness and depression. “I could weep by the hour like a child,” he wrote once, “and yet I knew not what I wept for.” And on another occasion, he said “I am the subject of depression so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.
I am not qualified to offer an opinion on the causes of or cures for depression. I know people who have experienced spiritual breakthroughs and miraculous deliverance from their depression. I know people who can function each day because of the help they receive from medication. And I’ve met people have spent years finding little help or hope for their daily battle with the darkness.
Ed Welch, the author of a book about depression called A Stubborn Darkness tells about a 75-year-old man he knows who has been depressed his entire life.
Ed met with the man hoping to glean the wisdom that has come from being in the fight every day. In the end, his wisdom was fairly simple.
“Why do you get up every morning?” Ed asked. And his friend said, “The reason I get up every morning is because I am called to love people. So I look to love somebody every single day.”
Ed said “when he told me that, I wanted to take my shoes off and say, ‘I’m on holy ground.’”
None of us knows what Robin Williams’ experience with depression was like. We don’t know the depth of his battle. The Robin Williams we saw looked like a man whose life was full of laughter and joy.
Late Monday night, I heard a brief interview with Dave Berg, who knew Robin from his 18 years of working as co-producer of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Most comedians, Berg said, would arrive for the show and would wait to perform until the cameras were on. Not Robin. He was in character when he arrived, performing the whole time. “He was always on,” Berg said.
It had to be exhausting.
And then I wondered how many of us spend hours each day performing, in character, always on? How many make sure that no one around us knows about the hurt behind the mask or the darkness hidden deep in our soul?
I hope any in our church who battle with depression or darkness in your own soul knows that your burden is meant to be shared. The love and concern and care of friends may not be the cure for your pain. But having burden bearers who walk the dark road with you can make the path a little less ominous.
I hope any who battle with depression or darkness will seek help.
I hope you will not lose heart.
And I hope all of us will see that the masks we all are prone to wear can easily become a crushing weight.
We need each other. We need friends who will love us well when life gets bleak and messy and the masks are off. We need to incarnate the stubborn love of God when we know someone who is weighed down by life.
I hope as our small groups re-form in five weeks, we will make it a priority to take off our masks and bear one another’s burdens as we meet and throughout the week, and to experience the beauty and power of authentic grace based, Christ centered, intentionally intrusive redemptive relationships.
Many of you know that Bob Boyd regularly paraphrases chapters of the Bible, putting them in the language that he calls “the word on the street.”
Bob wrote me this week to tell me about another project he tried his hand at recently. A friend had challenged him to write a one page presentation of the gospel that could be shared with an unbelieving friend.
It’s classic Bob Boyd. And I told him I wanted to share it with you. Maybe it will motivate you to try your hand at the same thing. If you had five minutes to explain the gospel to an unbeliever, do you know what you’d say?
Here’s Bob Boyd’s first draft (and he’s happy for any suggestions you have on how to improve it):
It’s kind of like independent contractors versus company guys. I can go about running my own life, maybe checking in with the Boss once in a while but mostly on my own. Or I can be a “company man,” and keep in daily contact with Him.
“He” is the Founder, Chief Exec Officer, and General Manager of everything, not just in the world, but in the whole universe. There’s no bigger Boss than that. He made me and you and everybody and everything. But He lets us go and stays out of our biz unless we really get to messing up.
He once laid down a set of rules through a guy named Moses. He knew nobody could keep up with His rules perfectly. When we really got things in a SNAFU, He would send guys like Elijah, Isaiah and a lot of others in the Old Bible, to clean things up. We call them “trouble-shooters.” They would come in and tell everybody what the Boss wants. Most of the time we didn’t listen to them. Sometimes we even killed them to shut them up!
Finally God the Big Boss decided it was for Him to come down Himself, like a loving dad coming downstairs to straighten out his out-of-control kids. So He became a Man, a God-Man. I think He knew all along He would someday have to get involved personally. Nothing else was gonna work. Well, guess what? Even though He came to show them He still loved them, they treated Him the same way they had treated His other reps. Some of them listened, but the guys who thought they were in charge, put out a contract on Him and had Him killed!
But this time, it was different because He wasn’t just another guy sent to carry out the Boss’s orders. This was God Himself. He’s always been living and He’ll always be living. Sure, they killed Him and buried Him in a borrowed grave. But He came back to life and came up out the grave. I am not making this up.
Now, you can believe this or not. You can go on running your own way, like an independent trucker or somebody like that. You’ll get no company benefits, like life insurance. That’s just for guys who sign on with the Boss for life and give up working for themselves for good, and finally go to work for the Boss. Here’s the job description:
Be up and ready to go for any assignment 24/7. Stay in touch with the Boss every day. Suit up and show up for duty. Speak up when He says. And shut up when He says. You’ve gotta be able to take orders and be a company man.
Here’s the benefits package:
If you’re doing what the Boss wants, you get all the help you need any time, including emergency road service, 24/7.
You don’t have to be afraid to call Him because now you’re carrying out His orders.
He pays all expenses.
You get the best life insurance available; you get to live forever with Him. How’s that for a retirement package? You’ll be working for the biggest, most powerful Boss of bosses. Nobody goes over His head.
Now, how does that compare with the deal you’ve got now, as an “independent”? You can’t beat it with a stick. It’s the best deal. Absolutely nobody has ever had a boss as good as Him. It’s the best deal. In fact, it’s outta this world. But you’ve got to sign on. Nobody’s gonna try to make you.
This Sunday afternoon is our summer baptism potluck and pool party at Tom and Nancy Arnold’s house. We’ll meet at 4:00, baptize five people at 5:00, and then stay and eat and visit as long as you’d like, or until Tom kicks you out.
Bring a dish of food to share – a main dish, a side dish, a big bag of chips or a dessert. We’ll have bottled water to drink. If you want something else, you’re on your own.
Here are directions to the Arnold’s house from the Wal-Mart on Highway 10 at Chenal Parkway (It takes about 20 minutes from the Wal Mart to get to the Arnolds, so plan accordingly):
Head west on Highway 10 about two miles to the Ferndale cut-off.
Turn left and go about four miles to the corner of Ferndale and Kanis.
Turn right on Kanis and go ten miles to Cave Creek Road.
Turn left on Cave Creek and go 9/10s of a mile.
Once you turn on Cave Creek, continue straight – don’t turn off anywhere. The road ends at the Arnold’s home.
This coming Monday, August 18, at 7:00, Dr. Bruce Ware will once again be joining us at Redeemer. Since 1998, Dr. Ware has taught theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Dr. Ware will be speaking to us on the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. Think now about who you’d like to invite to come and hear Dr. Ware.
September is always a busy month for our church. We’re making plans now for a Baby Dedication as part of our morning worship on September 15. If you have a child you would like to have dedicated that morning, please send your name and the child’s name to email@example.com.
Small groups will also be re-forming and starting up again the week of September 15. And we’ll be hosting our new members classes beginning later that month.
We’ll have more details on all these upcoming activities soon. Just a head’s up here.
We will explore the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith this Sunday as God sends him to Mount Moriah with orders to sacrifice his only son. Read through Genesis 22 before you come.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!