A dance well-danced. A score well-played. A life well-lived?
We began in church, as we do every Sunday. Pastor spoke about life—the sanctity of life—how it is vital that equality, liberty, and sexuality are viewed first as issues of authority, fundamentally, when making determinations about these issues judicially. Our highest courts are making mighty judgments that will either shift culture toward God and His ways or away from God and His ways.
In his great work, How Now Shall We Live?, Charles Colson wrote about the battle in which we find ourselves today:
The culture war is not just about abortion, homosexual rights, or the decline in public education. These are only the skirmishes. The real war is a cosmic struggle between worldviews—between the Christian worldview and the various secular and spiritual worldviews arrayed against it. This is what we must understand if we are going to be effective both in evangelizing our world today and in transforming it to reflect the wisdom of the Creator. p. 17
Ultimately, Colson argues, Christianity is the only worldview that aligns with reality. Being an avid student of worldviews—belief systems, which encompass not only religion but science—I have come to the conclusion that Colson is right.
Christianity is the only overarching worldview that aligns with reality. Christianity is the only overarching worldview that works in the long run. The more humanity embraces God’s true ways, the more humanity and the rest of creation flourishes, ultimately. The more humanity rejects God’s true ways, the more humanity and the rest of creation crumbles, eventually. And I’ve come to believe that anyone who rejects God and His ways either doesn’t truly understand God and His ways or truly wants to go about trying to prove God wrong, believing life can be lived well and all creation restored apart from God and His ways.
Because I like to embrace what works and reject what doesn’t, I embrace biblical Christianity—not just because I know my need of personal salvation but because I believe God calls us to a great commission that goes beyond saving souls. I agree with Colson’s statement that “Christians are saved not only from something (sin) but also to something (Christ’s lordship over all life).” p. 296
The march toward a renewed world cannot begin on the wrong foot if we expect to go in the right direction. The issue of authority must be addressed first. Who’s in charge, ultimately? Who sets the rules, ultimately? God or Man? God or me? The ramifications of how we answer these questions in our mind and how we live accordingly are startling not only for individuals but for cultures and, ultimately, for the entire world.
How we viewthe world has an effect on the world—a profound effect, starting with the individual and rippling out and into the whole world. If we want to restore the world, we need to start with ourselves. And to experience restoration, we first need to settle the question of authority in our personal lives and then in our society.
How does one go about living life well if issues of authority are not clear? And what is the truth about authority?
Truth is truth. We can try to deny it. We can try to distort it. We can try to reject it. But truth is truth. And Jesus said HE is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He said that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Some don’t like this exclusivity claim today. Some didn’t like it when Jesus walked the earth. Some didn’t like submitting to God’s Way, Truth, and Life from the beginning of time. It’s a matter of authority. Who is on the throne of individual and corporate lives, us or God?
Bottom line? It doesn’t matter what we like and what we don’t like—what we think and don’t think. Our preferences and opinions do not alter truth one bit. God’s ways and His word—not our ways and our words—accepting and following—this is the way to live an elegant life—a life flowing with beauty and meaning and hope. This is the only way I have found life to work and bring about constructive, lasting change.
Easy? Absolutely not! Why? Because we are headstrong and hard-hearted, more often than not. We want to be God, just like Adam and Eve, and we do so every day, relegating the one true God to bottom shelves for emergency purposes only, calling upon Him only when we want and need. Even then, we fashion God in our own image and look for the religiously trained and ordained to tickle our ears with what we want to hear about God, not what God says about Himself in His word. We like to pick and choose according to our liking. We like to fit our image of God and His ways into our own self-made boxes. We like to construct our own worship altars and bow down to an array of gods.
What do we get from living such lives? Deception and wreckage—inside and out. And we don’t become like God. Ever. We realize, every time we try to take the reins of life from the God of life, we were duped into believing it possible to drive the horse of life by ourselves and not end up in a ditch damaged, if not dead.
Is there another way? A true way? A way we can walk and live that ends in triumph, not tragedy? Do we not all ask these questions and seek true answers?
After church, with all these thoughts still mulling in my mind, my daughter and I attended the Milwaukee Ballet’s production of the iconic ballet, Swan Lake, where we watched all of life’s struggle and desire danced on stage. Tchaikovsky’s accompanying score captured the continuum of human emotion, from angst to rapture, from horror to splendor. I watched, captivated for over two hours, sometimes hardly breathing, sometimes quietly crying. And I looked around the sold-out auditorium and wondered. What did all these people come to hear and see today? Why were we spending a beautiful, spring afternoon inside a dark theatre?
I suspect it’s because we humans need to see our deepest struggle on stages, in books, on screen, on canvas in order to understand and transcend. Isn’t this the primary function of art—to help us come to grips with the broken and to transcend, connecting with what’s divine, with what’s truly beautiful and meaningful?
Somewhere, deep inside our hearts and souls, we need to see truth and beauty. We need to know there is absolute truth and that we can embrace that truth. Whether we know it consciously or not, we all long for good to triumph over evil, for the light of truth to shine through the shadows of deception—for love to win in the end.
This is why we crowded into the dark theatre, I think. We need to see and hear our human drama danced and played out to the end because we need to hold onto hope that some things—like truth and love and beauty and faith and hope—will rise again, even after being wounded, even after death.
The story of Swan Lake helps us express our soul’s deepest longing through dance set to music. Here, in the synopsis from the show bill, we see our age-old conflict, my personal commentary added in bold. Look for yourself in this story. Look for our culture, even our world in this story:
The Queens’ confidante, Count von Rothbart, plots to depose the crown and proclaim himself ruler. Through his mystical powers, he creates the effigy of Odile (the dark swan) in the image of Princess Odette (the white swan) to lure Prince Siegfried, the heir apparent, to his death. (Deposing of rightful authority? Luring? Deceiving? Darkness and light? Sound familiar?)
Siegfried laments the loss of his childhood sweetheart, Princess Odette, who mysteriously disappears with her friends whilst playing lakeside. (Loss of innocence?)
The day before Siegfried’s twenty-first birthday, he celebrates with his friend, Benno. Count von Rothbart salutes the young prince with a chalice containing a hallucinogenic drug. Now he can lure him to the lake, where he will reveal his true love, Odette. Von Rothbart has placed a curse on Odette and her friends: They appear as swans during the day and as women in the hours of darkness. Their salvation is dependent on Siegfried promising his eternal love to Odette. (Need for salvation? Eternal love? Redemption? Reverse of the curse?)
The next evening in the Palace ballroom, guests arrive to celebrate Siegfried’s birthday. It is his duty to choose his bride form three eligible princesses. Siegfried refuses to select a wife, despite his mother’s insistence, until the arrival of Odile. She casts her cunning spell on him, and he chooses her to be his bride: Odile reveals a vision of Odette to the court. The prince has been deceived/ he has sworn eternal love to Odile, not Odette. Siegfried runs from the palace in pursuit of his true love. The monarchy has fallen under the rule of Count von Rothbart.
Siegfried finds Odette by the lake, where she begs him to forget her, as they can never be together. The prince would rather forfeit his life than leave her. (Christ-figure?)
In the ensuing fight, Rothbart mortally wounds Odette. Siegfried carries her to the lake’s edge, and together they plunge into their watery grave.
The power of true love rises out of the lake and engulfs Rothbart and Odile. The image of Odette and her prince united in eternal love rises from the lake. (Only an image? True love isn’t just an image, a concept—True Love is a Person! And He rose from the grave, alive, and reversed the curse with His death and resurrection!)
How many people understood this drama in terms of world view? I don’t know. But I suspect that’s why we loved this ballet. It’s not just the athleticism and grace of the dancers, the beautiful fabrics woven and sewn into costumes, the magnificent sets and backdrops, the passion of the orchestral music—it’s more about the TRUTH of the STORY, the outcome! It’s what our hearts and souls stand up and applaud! It’s what we long for! It’s what we’re dying for!
In an age where relativism appears to have replaced absolutes, do we not still long for absolutes like the truth in Swan Lake? When the Supreme Court justices of our day try to rewrite reality according to the shifting sands of time, do we not still long for solid foundations where right engulfs wrong?
All gods who are self-made will fall in the end. And we want it that way! We stand and applaud when evil is conquered—when absolute truth and love stand victorious. Though Satan tried to depose God and duped us into joining his mission—though some still try to usurp God’s authority today—Jesus has already risen from the grave and stands strong for all who place their trust and hope in Him. The Way, the Truth, and the Life restores all. We long for the fulfillment of this hope to which we all cling.
That’s why we go to the ballet. That’s why we stand and applaud and shout “Bravo!” That’s why we don’t want the final curtain to fall. But it must for now. The curtain must come down and we must leave our darkened theatres and go out into the world to live our days. Will we make a difference? Will we work to make life not just imitate art but to BECOME art—an elegant life well-lived?
Charles Colson reminds us of Christ’s great commission:
Every day you and I are making decisions that help construct one kind of world or another. Are we co-opted by the faddish worldviews of our age, or are we helping to create a new world of peace, love, and forgiveness? How now shall we live? By embracing God’s truth, understanding the physical and moral order he has created, lovingly contending for that truth with our neighbors, then having the courage to live it out in every walk of life. (p. 487)
God is not just in the business of saving souls, though we are the crown of His creation. God’s goal is to restore all His creation to its original order and absolute beauty. Shall we rise to the occasion and join Him in His work?
Such rising and joining and working—this is an elegant life, well-lived.
This is true life with God.
Shall we dance?
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 22:1-6