I have to admit that the older I get, burying my head in the proverbial sand is more attractive. Yeah, I’m a coward. It’s my protection “mechanism” against information overload and the drag that comes with it. I can’t digest all the information coming at me. Plus, I fear the fatigue that comes with the letdown in the news. But don’t worry, that will become old news in a few hours or days!
Because every time we take our head out of the sand and come up for “refreshing” air, we realize danger and disappointment surround us. Often, we find out that another beloved hero or leader has fallen or some dirt has surfaced to tarnish their otherwise blissful and inspiring legacy. So, we choose to suffocate ourselves spiritually in the sand of our own heads by not wanting to hear or know anything that would change this sublime state.
Leadership failures and hero falls are becoming more quickly known and broadcasted because of technology these days. But it’s not always the case for more historic figures that predated this ‘every person a journalist’ era.
Consider one of our Christian heroes: Horatio G. Spafford, a 19th century Chicago lawyer, whose legacy as a hymn-writer was firmly fixed in the tragic loss he experienced of his four daughters on the Atlantic. He penned the beloved “It is Well With My Soul” as his confident acceptance of God’s promises and plan. This is usually where the story ends on Spafford. Yet, as is little known, it didn’t really end well for him. Though he and his wife Anna were able to have 3 other children and adopted another later in life, Spafford, who was a member of the Fullerton Ave Presbyterian Church (in Lincoln Park, Chicago), adhered to quirky and maybe even quixotic or heterodox doctrinal views, such as universalism. He attempted to use his influence as a board member and elder of the church to fire the new pastor. He thought he would sway the vote, but a majority surprisingly showed up to vote. He lost by a large margin, and stormed away from the church. Thankfully he didn’t go to infect another church. Wandering and worse off, he started his own sect that claimed itself more pure than other churches. He became beholden to the coming of Christ in the land of Christ more than Christ himself. Having majored to a fault on end times theology, social justice issues and a strict entrance requirements to his group, he eventually moved his family to Palestine where contracted malaria and died. Anna, his wife, kept the colony and its activities alive for the rest of her life. Though it was well for a time for Spafford, it didn’t end well. Sad.
Now, if you’ve read this far and believe this unknown side of this hero story, you must be disappointed. Maybe you’ll never sing that song the same way again. Maybe you’d rather just not trust your heart (and voice!) to another beloved song writer or Christian leader because you’re afraid that they’re just going to break it.
But that is where the good news comes in. Preaching to myself here, too, you must get the sand out of your head by reminding yourself of Christ who is the Hero that can never disappoint. Most (if not all), the luminaries in the Bible have tarnished reputations. They all point back to the Christ. Their lives are the black felt on which the diamond of our Christ shines purer and fairer.
If you need a human to prop up your faith, you should repent of trusting in anyone else for happiness or lasting encouragement. Humans, in so far as they are following Christ and persevering, are worthy of honoring and following, but we must never be surprised or ultimately crushed when something dark is exposed about their lives. If anything, we should be driven to prayer for them (if they’re still alive) and ourselves. We should take to the Word for fresh courage and perspective and be slow to make hasty conclusions. Protect yourself first from our Christian cultural tendency of hagiography (biography that idealizes a subject) and celebrityism. And when the next Christian luminary in your life falls from your sky, “consider Christ who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3).
Take heart, my friend.
Christ is all.