Ravi, Rush, and a Ravishing Italian… on Ash Wednesday

This is a tale of a progressive post.

It all started with wanting to write about Ravi Zacharias, as up until a few hours or so ago, it was the bloggiest thing to do, at least in certain bloggy circles. And what good am I as a blogger, anyway, if I don’t seize the moment and jump on the commentary bandwagon with my unsolicited but oh-so-necessary insight on current events?

I realize not all of you know who he is, so in a nutshell: he was one of the most gifted and celebrated Christian apologists of our time, recently departed (last May), known for his gracious demeanor and respected literally all over the world, and who also, as it has recently been revealed, apparently led a “secret” life that has all but completely decimated whatever earthly good he was known for doing.

So there’s that.

But then, as news cycles go… new news has since broken…not once, but twice.

The first, about the passing of another iconic Christian figure, at least to all us GenX’r CCMers out there (you know who you are, you Jesus Freaks you): Carman Licciardello, so acclaimed by said GenXer/CCMers that he enjoyed the Cher-like status of being known simply as Carman… passed away, late last night. Aside from his epic talk/sing/tell a story musical stylings, and dance-dance revolution inspiring moves, Carman’s legacy, at least to little old Misfit Me, can be summed up in the lyrics from my personal favorite album of his, The Standard: “…the only hope for America is Jesus.” Put a bookmark there, ’cause we’ll come back to it.

So now here I am, all these swirling, contrasting thoughts about these two men, swirling and contrasting around in my head… cause even through the disconnect, there’s a connection there. There’s ALWAYS a connection.

See? Even Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh says so!

But wait… here comes another breaking story. Rush Limbaugh has passed away today. Of course, by now you already know this. And you already know what you think about him, so you don’t need me to fill you in, unless of course you are under 30, and your mother is making you read this (you know who you are, dear progeny). But I will say this. Love him or hate him (which you all do), he brought a strange sense of unity in our polarized reactions to who we perceived him to be; that is, he himself was a focal point – and no doubt our reactions to him reveal more about ourselves than anything he said or believed. And the thing is, as long as we had him to cheer or jeer, at least we were all looking in the same general direction.

Now I wonder where we might look.

Which brings me back to the whole “connected” thing… It’s not so much about what these men had, or didn’t have in common, as an intellectual, an entertainer and a radio personality, respectively… aside from the fact that they all died from cancer. All three were merely human, some more flawed than others, and none, in our newly acquired benefit of hindsight, are worthy of being idolized. But the connection, I think lays not so much in who we’re looking at, but in what we’re looking for.

We look for a person to embody truth and grace… and are left looking through the rubble and wreckage of the devastation they leave behind.
We look for a mouthpiece to take a bold stand on our behalf… and are left feeling voiceless when their voice is halted.
We look for a symbol on which to pin our disdain… and well, that actually won’t change, we’ll probably still do that, but still, it’s hard to pin a ghost.
We look to the man who tells us to look to Jesus… but we’re sad that with his passing, fewer people seem to be doing that now than when he first told us.

We look to people, and who can blame us? People are all we have, after all: fine, upstanding people… flawed people… awful, awful people… mixed bags, the whole lot of ’em. The whole lot of us.

I wonder, though, in all of this, if we are looking at the wrong people. Or rather, not looking at the right Person? You know where I’m going with this… yes, yes you’re very smart, I know, but stay with me.

We look to people, and who can blame us? People are all we have, after all: fine, upstanding people… flawed people… awful, awful people… mixed bags, the whole lot of them. The whole lot of us.

You can’t help but notice these days that there’s something of a shaking going on. A lot of “institutions” seem to be fading, if not crumbling before our eyes. And it’s leaving a lot of us a little disoriented, if not disillusioned. Where are we supposed to look, anyway, if we can’t even get our bearings? When it all seems like we’re just sinking down, down, into a heaping pile of burnt up ashes?

Maybe today has a clue for us. Oh, that’s right, it’s Ash Wednesday, isn’t it? The day that literally reminds us that from dust we came, and to dust we return. The day that kicks off a season of recalibration, contemplation, even repentance. A season where we’re invited to see things differently. See God differently, for who He really is, rather than who we make Him out to be.

Maybe all this shaking is a reminder to us to seek Him for ourselves, so we can see Him for ourselves.
It doesn’t mean we can’t look at all the mere human examples out there… how can we help it? But maybe if we look at Jesus first, we’ll be able to see Ravi, Rush and that Ravishing Italian Jesus Freak we like to call Carman, with a clearer perspective… and while we’re at it, maybe we’ll see ourselves a little more clearly, too.

And with that, I’m hitting “publish” before another story breaks. 💨

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