Let me begin with a short confession: the secrets you are about to read expose me for what I really am. I am a self-centered and indulgent little man with very narrow desires and I will throw a flaming fit if I don’t get my way. It’s true. To make matters worse, I was born this way.
I know, I know. I shouldn’t allude to a song that was released in 2011. That was SO last week, man. But I heard it on the radio the other day and so it obviously has some trending power left. Whether or not Lady Gaga is in vogue anymore, she at least got the title to her song nailed.
The Song, “Born This Way” preaches the age old doctrine of self-indulgence: be what you want and do what you want because you’re beautiful.
The poor woman thinks she’s swimming against the current. Sorry, honey, but we’ve been singing that song since Cain; in fact, every one of us entered the world singing the same old tune: give me what I want and give it to me now. I was no different. While my infant cry was first heard in Tucson, Arizona, I was scampering barefoot in Kenya, Africa before my sixth birthday. No, I was not consulted prior to such a drastic geographical change. In a strange career move, Dad secured a post as a missionary doctor in rural Africa. The small hospital was located at the base of Mt. Elgon and the view was amazing. I could scamper a few houses down and look over a wide valley that spread its agrarian patchwork quilt over the distant Ugandan border.
Even in the lap of such natural beauty, my little heart roiled with rage. I raged at the sky for its unfamiliar moods. I raged at the clay earth for the slapping sound it made under my feet. I raged at the dark people who hovered at the living room window and ran their fingers through my hair when I ventured out. They laughed at my strange whiteness and I recoiled from myself.
So one evening when my heart was hot and heavy with languor, while I swung on the metal gate that separated the hospital compound from the girl’s boarding school, I spotted a neighbor lady stooping outside her door. She seemed a ready and easy target for all my childhood anger so I took sticks from the ground and hurled them at her with all my little strength. I’m not sure what I hoped to achieve, except perhaps for the venting of the internal heat, but I remember the surprise that halted all my rage like a sudden cold shower when she braved the raining sticks and strode at me. Her strength and speed paralyzed me and before I could gather my courage off the ground, she had me by the back of the neck and was hauling me to our front porch. I bristled under the shame of being caught while my mother’s heart curled into a fetal position.
Rage finds rage and so I was easily befriended by a boy who lived next to the hospital. Giant rats lived under his house, rats we later killed with shovels and clubs, but there were also rats in the cellar of his heart and those are always the hardest to kill. I too had rats in my cellar and so I didn’t mind the scurrying feet across broken glass when we were together. He was my first tutor in all things fleshly, teaching me a Godless human anatomy and the sour words that best fit my rage. Being a child, I outpaced my parents in language studies, and once again the neighbors came bearing bad news that Benjamin was shouting swear words from the top of the Avocado tree.
In my defense, I did not know the literal translation of those Swahili words, but I was a good student when I wanted to be and I knew enough to feel the gratification that comes from brashly saying what should not be said. It was one more way to strain against my circumstances and foist my desires upon an indifferent world.
My rigid self-gratification oriented my outlook on life, other people, and even God and his purpose in my life. The small cinderblock affair that I called home had metal slates over each window, cris-crossing to make squares about twelve inches across. Every Sunday, with a handful of Sundays thrown in to keep my parents off the scent, I left one window unlatched and during Sunday school I would excuse myself to scamper home. With practice I became proficient at pulling myself up and shimming first my shoulders and then my waist through that little opening. After that, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to the kitchen pantry where my mother kept the candy jar on the top shelf. I covered my tracks well, or so I thought (my parents eventually caught me and to this day I don’t know how), and returned to Sunday School with no one the wiser.
Things haven’t changed much. I suppose I don’t throw sticks at people any more or steal candy from my parent’s pantry or swear from the top of trees, but the small desires are still there. I still want my own way and I still get angry when I don’t get it. Yes, Lady, I was born this way. And I am this way even though I am a Christian, waving the Christian flag, and covered by the blood of Christ.
Lady Gaga celebrates this age old tendency to want our own way. Christ,however, did not and neither should we. Christ came to save us from it. He came to give us new desires. He came to give us new birth.
I need the Gospel: I need it preached to me every day.
- I need to be forgiven: I need to absorb the blood of Christ into every corner of my life.
- I need bigger desires: I need to look beyond these childish desires and fix my eyes on the desires God has for me.
Christ gave me new birth, new desires. It’s true. I’m a new man and, yes, I suppose I was born this way. That, Lady, is worth celebrating.