It has been said that there are two great tragedies in life – not getting what you want, and getting it.
When it is all said and done, the life of Michael Jackson may very well be a cautionary illustration of that principle.
When Joseph Jackson began (literally) whipping his sons into show biz shape, there was one great driving vision –
Let people know who you are.
Make it big.
Become a star.
And so began the full on pursuit of that ultimate brass ring – fame.
But as many others have sadly discovered, one of the strangest results of achieving that goal is to discover that the pursuit of fame can easily turn on you.
Instead of pursuing fame, those who make it to the top find themselves being pursued by fame.
You know the stories.
A quiet night on the town turns into a high speed chase by the paparazzi.
“Friends” leaking intimate secrets to the media for a price.
The constant companionship of a staff of security to screen out the stalkers.
The disconcerting feeling that one doesn’t have a single relationship that isn’t tied to an agenda.
Many devote their lives to have fame, only to discover that fame has them.
And instead of fame bringing liberation and celebration, there is ultimately a crushing sense of isolation.
Following the over the top success of “Thriller”, Michael Jackson released a song and a video with the sad but telling title – “Leave Me Alone”.
And although the lyrics were about a relationship gone sour, the video showed Jackson riding on a roller coaster, surrounded by images of prying media and representations of all the rumors of his strange life.
But this ride was anything but fun – it was oppressive, even nightmarish.
But do you catch the irony here?
On the one side, Jackson was lashing out at all the intrusions that people had made into his personal space.
But on the other, he didn’t seem to mind using this sense of outrage to sell more records.
Like an addictive drug, he couldn’t live with fame – or without it.
“Well thank goodness none of that applies to me. I will never have to worry about living the stressful life of a super star!”
For the vast majority of us that is true.
But there is a life lesson here for all of us.
The desire to “be somebody” that fuels the pursuit of fame isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
All of us are created with a need for a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.
In fact, it is a large part of what it means to be made in God’s image and likeness.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
The Bible tells us that God didn’t just create humanity to wander aimlessly. Even in the perfect conditions of Eden, Adam and Eve were created on purpose and for a purpose.
And ever since we have had a critical need to know that there is more to our lives than eating, breathing, reproducing and dying.
But the crucial issue is, how will we meet that need?
When we decide to find our purpose in the approval or applause of others, something inevitably goes wrong.
No matter how much we have, or how many people know us there is a troubling sense of “Is that all there is?” emptiness that dogs our steps.
No wonder the prophet Jeremiah wrote this sober warning to his right hand man, Baruch.
And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.(Jeremiah 45:5)
Notice the key words here – “for yourself”
The secret of true fulfillment isn’t so much what we do, as it is who we do it for.
Jesus put it this way:
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:25-27)
Jesus said the only way we will find the meaning and fulfillment we seek is in a relationship with Him.
In fact, His final review of how we lived our lives is the only one that really matters.
And the pain ridden, confused and eventually drug addled life of Michael Jackson bears witness as to what can happen when we go looking for purpose and meaning in all the wrong places.
CS Lewis, a man who experienced his share of fame, offers this telling insight:
“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.
Does that sound strange?
The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
Where are you looking for your sense of meaning and purpose today?
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