Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Thief in the Night

While it might not be exactly the apocalypse prophesied in the New Testament, there is something coming like "a thief in the night" that is frighteningly similar. I use the phrase not because I want to give this post a religious tone but because it is perfectly appropriate to the times.

The phrase, "like a thief in the night" was drilled into the heads of many of us since we were children. Jesus would return like a thief in the night which, we were told, only meant that he would come when we didn't expect it. But think about the words used in the phrase. There is something more being said here that goes beyond our merely being taken by surprise.

Thieves come in the night because that is when we are sleeping. As long as we and our neighbors are asleep, they can take their time picking the lock and looking for our valuables. If we wake up, they are faced with the choice of either running or using violence, neither of which is perferable to the original plan of taking your time if you are actually a thief after loot and not a violent psychopath out to hurt people for the fun of it. If you have to use violence you are running a risk of losing the struggle, after all.

We, as a culture, are asleep. There are thieves (who are also psychopaths) looting our house at this very moment. They are prepared to use violence if necessary, but they prefer to rob us blind while we sleep. So far, we have been very obliging on that point. Despite the rattlings from the other room that we can't help but notice, we prefer to tell ourselves that it is just the house settling or the wind, then drift back into deep sleep. On the plus side, we get a good night's sleep. On the minus side, we are in for a rude awakening in the morning.

The metaphor breaks down after awhile. They are like thieves in the night, but they don't just wait for us to fall asleep then tiptoe gently around the house hoping we don't wake up. They work to keep us asleep. They whisper in our ears to encourage pleasant dreams that make us want to stay under the covers, eyes closed tight. They convince us that what we dream as we sleep is what is real and that all they are taking is illusion.

What are they stealing? Your soul. That's right, that thing that isn't nearly as valuable as the car, house, new clothes and great new body they have been promising you in your sleeep.

Remember a time in your life when you didn't hold those things in such high regard? When life was not all about a race to get the latest thing? You probably smiled more back then...felt more joy. You were in touch with something called life. Then you began listening to the dream-making theives who convinced you to go to sleep in the fantasy world they helped create for you while they drained you of everything truly valuable.

You may think you have a soul, whole and safe from the theives? You can find out right now. Think of everything you heard on the news over the past week. What created the greatest level of excitement in you? Was it something about fashion, celebrity, technology, transportation, entertainment? Or was it the anger you felt at the killing of innocent people in the middle east?