When half-gods go, the gods arrive.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Give All to Love”
A recent news item alerted us to the fact that Kate Middleton might have ventured out in public with her dress on backwards. Thank heavens the media was working overtime to keep us apprised of the situation.
I have to wonder, though. Once my mother slipped her sandals onto the wrong feet and walked around the house for a time before realizing her error. I don’t remember reading about that in the newspapers.
Even worse, my grandmother showed up at work one morning without her skirt. She had remembered the blouse but left home without the rest of the outfit. There she stood in the middle of the office wearing only slip and panties from the waist down. The skirt wasn’t simply on backwards; it wasn’t there at all! And yet, where were the media reports of this 1940s wardrobe malfunction? Instead of the news wires humming with this sensational story, there was nothing. Bupkis. Crickets.
Ah, but of course. My grandmother was only a middle-aged widow with a teen-aged daughter at home and a son serving his country in the war. What is either noble or newsworthy about a life like that?
But, you see, I can’t help but notice that those royals across the pond generate a whole lot of hoopla just by doing what the rest of the world does every day: celebrating a birthday, getting married, having a baby, and wearing or not wearing clothes, as the case may be. One of them can barely sneeze without causing an international sensation.
Their every movement, real or otherwise, is carried out under the hungry eye of the world. We demand glimpses into the lives of people we believe so much greater than ourselves.
Actually, no; the truth is: we demand gods. Preferably, we’d each like to be a god (our greatest temptation since the Garden), though barring that—or perhaps in addition to that—we invest a great deal of time and effort into making them. After all, we have to have something to worship, don’t we?
God (the real and only one) had a reason for not wanting ancient Israel to have a king and it was this: He alone wanted to be their king. He was well aware of humankind’s starry-eyed tendency to worship royalty, and He wanted the Israelites to keep their eyes on Him.
I find it interesting to note that when God relented and gave Israel a king, He insisted that any human ruler was never to be regarded as better than his fellow Israelites. He was to be considered their equal, no greater than even the lowest and most common (Duet 20: 17).
You can imagine how well the Israelites did with that one. Just look at us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about half-gods—as well he should have because the world is full of them…and they are all man-made. Royal blood is a human concept, not a genetic reality. The blood that flows through Everyman’s veins is the same stuff that pumps through the heart of any royal.
The half-gods aren’t limited to royalty, of course—there are oh-so-many half-gods populating the world! Movie stars, athletes, politicians, academicians, Nobel-prize winners, Pulitzer-prize winners, New York Times best-selling authors, and on and on and on, ad infinitum, as achievements catapult more and more mere mortals to the heights of Mount Olympus.
And of course our own selves if, because of our achievements, we feel inclined to consider ourselves better than everyone else.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with celebrating human achievement. Sure, those who work hard and develop their talents ought to receive a degree of recognition.
The problem comes when God is left out of the picture.
The problem comes when we say So-and-so is an amazing person without recognizing that So-and-so was created by an even more amazing God, and that without God, So-and-so would never have had any gifts and talents and abilities to begin with because So-and-so wouldn’t exist at all. Without God, we are all nothing.
The irony is that we take our God-given talents that were meant to glorify God and use them to make little gods of ourselves and other people.
And in so doing, we take the God who is everything and reduce Him to nothing.
I recently asked my 21-year-old daughter if she knew who Princess Diana was. She had to think a moment, which in itself was telling. Ask anyone of my generation and the answer would be: “Of course I know who Diana was! Who doesn’t?” None of us escaped the tsunami of publicity surrounding the woman who became famous for getting married.
Finally, my daughter, one generation removed, said simply, “Isn’t she the one who died?”
Let me take the words of the transcendentalist philosopher Emerson and put a Christian spin on them: “When half-gods go, God arrives.”
Only when the half-gods go, when they are put in their rightful place, can God reign supreme in our lives.
May God forgive us for allowing a whole world of mortal half-gods to take our eyes off Him. And may we someday be able to say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (Psalm 73:25, NASB).
Photo courtesy of pxhere.com