Suicidal Despair and Quesadillas
I love Mexican food. I know, “What shocking and totally subversive thing will you say next?!”
But quesadillas, chimichangas, taco salads… all of them, aren’t the single best thing that exists in this world. Some of you are very confused right now. I blame my work schedule.
What if, like me, you sat down in front of a big heaping plate of Mexican food and were prepared to enjoy every single part of its greasy, salty, goodness but then you had a weird thought? What if a thought crossed your mind that there existed not a single better thing anywhere, on earth, in that moment? Seems odd, I know, but I need you to keep up.
You eat the quesadillas. And then? Then what happens? They’re gone. It’s over. The single greatest consumable thing is now over, gone.
“Is that it?” you ask.
Yes, and now it’s over. Nothing in your life will ever be as enjoyable as that.
To say you might feel despair would be understating things. I would feel despair and I love Mexican food. But if you could convince me, with all truth, that what I had just eaten was the very highest point of my life? I would weep.
And yet… yet this is exactly what I do when I sin. I convince myself that the thing I am craving, in that moment, is the absolute best possible thing in existence. It’s worth everything. It’s worth my soul. It’s worthy of my love, my heart, my deepest affections. It’s worth my relationships. It’s worth, most importantly, distance from the only one who has ever loved me with absolute, pure love.
I convince myself, before, that whatever it is, is the pinnacle of my existence. And then I work like a fiend, after, to convince myself that all the effort I put into convincing myself before was truthful. Or maybe, at least, “coming from the right heart.” It’s a complex loop of lies that I must maintain in order to keep from facing and confronting the despair that inevitably comes.
And this is why all sin is tinged with that thread of despair. Even, I believe, for the unbeliever. All sin has a little echo in it that tells us that it’s not really the greatest thing we convinced ourselves it was. We crave it, we pursue it, we love it… and then after we have consumed the offering, we know better. And when we know? Oh that’s a dark place indeed.
The gospel opens up a different possibility. It tells me that as good as quesadillas are? There are better quesadillas. It tells me that as good as sex is? There is intimacy and joy, far greater. It tells me that [whatever it is] will have a purer, more powerful expression in the fulfillment of the universal narrative.
And this is good news. Actually? This is great news. For a number of reasons, but one that shines to me is that everything in this world is going to be better. Every sad story will come untrue. Every place where I dirty myself and abandon myself to the horrible bloody, craven sins, will one day be redeemed. And that my despair is, in fact, a form of passive atheism.
I can believe that my coffee cup is made for me, for my joy, by a loving God. I can also believe that quesadillas are too. And I can look forward to the better coffee, the better quesadilla, and I can be free to not tie my joy to expiring things.
Anyway, that’s where my head is.
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