“Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” – Words of MacBeth, Act 5 Scene 1 Lines 23-27
MacBeth utters this dark sentiment after hearing the news of the death of his wife. His crown, stolen from its rightful owner by MacBeth’s own murderous acts, will be his for only a few more moments as he is about to be overthrown and sent to his own death. In the middle of all this, he assessed his life and speaks this phrase out of despair. He is about to fall from power, but this is not the first nor is it the greatest failing in his life.
In the truest form of tragedy, MacBeth has already suffered his fall: a moral one. His actions in plotting the deaths of the king and others has brought down a once great and honored man and made him a paranoid shell of his former self. The man that is left is hollow, void of feeling, and in many ways incomplete.
In life, the same thing happens to many of us. Now I understand that few of us are in a position where we could murder the King of Scotland and take his crown, but that’s not the comparison. The comparison lies in the loss of ourselves. We can live lives that lack purpose, that have no greater meaning; lives without fulfillment. Believe me, I know.
It started years ago. It remains today. There are plenty of solutions – quick fixes that would come to the rescue and make everything better. Immerse yourself in work. Devote yourself to those things that are important. Give tirelessly to your friends. Take comfort in material things. These solutions that have been passed down for generations. Unfortunately, they don’t work.
Immersing yourself in work, volunteering, or whatever else you find can distract for a short while . But when you immerse yourself in anything you will eventually need to return to the surface for air. And like a drowning victim, once that critical point is reached, you’re left panicky, fighting for what it is you need to survive with little hope of finding it on your own.
Devotion to family and those people you love is noble, but we’re all sinful. Pinning your hopes on people is risky. There’s a reason why love at first sight and happily ever after are only used in fairy tales. Stories don’t show the hard work that is required to make relationships successful. Without it, relationships can and will become empty. Family is more than a collection of marriage and birth certificates, but too often out of fear, resentment, distrust, and neglect, that’s all they become.
Giving of yourself to others, making yourself accessible to others, helping meet the needs of those people around you are all great parts of what we’re called to do. But when we do this too often, we use our calling as a method of avoiding the issues that surround us. You start things, but you fail to finish. You extend yourself to please others, only to be unable to meet all of the demands and so you begin to disappoint. Excuses explain away the shortcomings until lies begin to dominate. Those people who started out in your corner walk away, or stand just around the corner speaking gossip and spreading rumors about you. These things hurt at any time, but when it comes from someone we trust, or when it comes at a time when we are least prepared for them, the sting is only magnified.
Taking comfort in people or objects is dangerous. There are many things in life upon which we can become addicted. I know that drugs and alcohol are the biggies, but you don’t need to drink like a fish, shoot chemicals into your veins, inhale smoke, or pop vicodin like candy to be an addict. You can be addicted to almost anything. I know people who are addicted to sports, to crude language and dirty jokes, to sex, to television, to gossip, to gambling, to books, to video games, to shopping, to negativity, to laziness, and on and on and on. These things are quite appealing when you’re searching for something to take the pain away, but ultimately they will neither satisfy nor last.
This is not God’s plan for us. Jesus tells us in John 6 that we have been given bread to eat. But this is not your ordinary, run of the mill ground wheat, baked and topped with peanut butter kind of bread. It is bread from heaven. It is the bread of life. It is not the bread that allows us to avoid hunger and physical death, but spiritual starvation and eternal death. This bread builds us up, turns us to God and brings us face to face with the Savior of the world, your Savior, my Savior.
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)