The funeral of Michael Jackson recently was attended by thousands and watched on TV by a global audience of millions. I am sure you saw the many people, many not even born or were just babies when Michael was at his peak in the 80s, declaring how much joy he brought them through his music and dancing. Amazing isn’t it? He brought joy to me too at that time. I remember playing “Beat It” on my walkman (no Discman or mp3 then) and watching the videotape over and over again. I could sync with its street-life impressions.
Yet despite bringing happiness to millions of people, sometimes I wonder if Michael had full happiness in his own heart. In his last decade of life, Michael made many bizarre decisions. He went through operations to whiten his skin and change his features to look Caucasian. It looked like he really wanted to be Peter Pan, never growing old. To this end, he built a sprawling mansion and called it Neverland, the fictional name for Peter Pan’s homeland. In it were all sorts of amusement stuff to amuse the many children that he invited to have fun there. Perhaps, the happiness that was found in making these children happy could replace the happiness lost after he dropped out of the entertainment scene. This, making others happy, could well be the reason that drove him to tax his 50-year old body in training for a grueling 50-city tour.
Many of us are like Michael Jackson in this sense. We seek our security and purpose in things of the world - personal success, status, beauty, wealth, and the approval of others. These may fulfill but if our worth is only found in them, we will feel empty and purposeless after enjoying them for a while or when they are taken away. Ultimately, such things being temporal, we will again give in to the drive to set higher goals for success or seek the approval of others.
This is not something new discovered by psychologists of our time. It is a timeless truth dating back to Eden. Adam and Eve found their true security and purpose when God demonstrated his love for them by meeting all their needs. It was their relationship with a loving God that proclaimed their actual worth. When Adam and Eve abandoned this relationship in disobedience, they also lost their sense of worth. They began feeling ashamed, worthless and attempted to hide from the true source of their worth, God.
We must always base our self-worth on who we are in Christ. The Bible tells us, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Our worth is not derived from what we achieve but because of who we are; people bought with the price of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Since that kind of worth is tied to the very nature of God, it can never change. If we apply this truth in our lives, we will profit by gaining real freedom. This is because in allowing God to control our lives and developing us to conform to his Son, we need not worry about gaining the approval of others or how they interpret the way we live our lives. This is worth reflecting on isn’t it?
(The introduction here is not meant to denigrate Michael Jackson in any way or his achievements. It is my prayer that his memory will be left in peace and that people will forego the hunger for sensationalistic news about his death so that we may always remember him for the person that he was – someone whose joy was in bringing joy to others)