Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams' Lessons for the Rest of Us

image used under Creative Commons license,
photo by Eva Rinaldi on Flickr
We all remember Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) as the man who made us laugh. But, like so many of us, there was so much more to him.  Not all of it was pretty.

It's been a few days since his passing. And I've had time to think about him and make some comparisons to my own life.  Which is why I said that not all of Robin's life was pretty.

Many of the stories about Mr. Williams' life and death mention his "personal demons".  That's closer to truth than most reporters realized or want to realize.

Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Whether we've made a conscious decision to be a Christ follower or not, we all start with "flesh" whose spiritual genetics have been tampered with by the decisions made by Adam and Eve.  And much of our input comes both from that and rest of a world that's suffered the same spiritual tampering.  Add the physical changes to us and the world because of our spiritual genetics and a set of demons unhappy with God and Man because they don't have an option of grace and mercy to fix their wrong decisions.  Those demons are adding to the witches brew raining down on each of us.  One could wonder why more don't give up in desperation.

Robin Williams was multi-talented and creative to the point of being able to create Mork, some of his more serious characters, and Mrs. Doubtfire.  I'd be surprised if Tyler Perry's Madea wasn't, in part, a tip of the hat to Mrs. Doubtfire.  Besides all that, Robin could be an MC and a stand up comedian.

If we look at the various interviews Williams did, he was very thoughtful and intelligent.  But, when we see a number of those interviews back to back, there was something else there, too.  We recently wrote a post about how the celebrity class, whether in entertainment, sports, or business, live in some level of fantasy that the wealth and extras they have are normal.  The rest of us know better. But there's a corner of the Christian population who are ready to describe any kind of deception as willfully volunteering for Satan's army.  And,  as much as that creates a nice simple explanation for simple minds, that's not always what's really happening.

I mentioned the interviews.  It struck me, first of all, that there were hesitations where Robin was looking for humorous responses to questions he wasn't prepared for.  As I watched more, I realized that each of these instances was a personal question, possibly getting into an area where he was feeling pain.  And they didn't seem to be areas he was ready to share.  So, he masked the pain with humorous responses.  The humor became his security gate to keep other people's attention diverted from the things he wasn't sure he wanted to share.  Sharing them would make him vulnerable to others.  And that's not something our flesh readily allows.

It's public record that Robin battled substance abuse for a variety of substances.  And, right to the end, he was successful in that.  He also fought depression.  As of 2011 (the most recent statistics), there were some 39,000 suicides that year in the US.  Another source pointed to many suicides being tied to depression.  And we have Mr. Williams.  It was just made public that he had Parkinson's Disease.  The outward symptoms of that could depress anyone.  But one of the symptoms of PD itself is a change in body chemistry that causes depression.  If a person is already suffering from depression, it could kick it up to a whole new level that might seem insurmountable.

In my own life, after many years, I can live in Matthew 6:33, which says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.".  And I can find comfort in "And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:" (Leviticus 5:5).  How about Proverbs 11:14, "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety."?  All of those verses work for me.  But they didn't used to.

There were decades where large amounts of alcohol and other things changed body chemistry, personality, and thinking.  Much to the detriment of those around me.  And an artificially shortened life span didn't seem like such a bad thing.  I was able to change that by changing my relationship with God.  But there are those, like Robin Williams, who battle things like depression all their lives. And that, most likely, was from a body chemistry that was messed up by our genetics (physical and spiritual) going back to Adam and Eve.  The world deals with it by godless counselling and throwing meds at it, whether they have any guarantee of doing something or not.  I think there's a real reason we say doctors practice medicine.

We can't accuse someone's spirituality as the sole reason they're afflicted.  When we look at the New Testament, Jesus healed people.  But He didn't heal everyone who needed it.  Some for obvious reasons, but there were lots of people that He just didn't choose to heal.  And He had His reasons for whatever He did.  But we need to remember Hebrews 4:15a, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;".  There is full understanding of our plight, whether we're healed on earth or not.

No matter what we experience, if we trust God, we know God doesn't place the negative things there, but He will use them for our benefit.  But those who don't yet know God don't have that understanding.  Add to that any chemical imbalance that distorts the mind and we see someone who may have no idea how to get out of their turmoil.  A lot of people have nastily asked why Robin didn't fix his depression.  The truth is that there's a lot of evidence that he did the best he could to deal with his addictions and depression.  Expressing opinions to the contrary doesn't comfort or edify the family or anyone else.  And they are just opinions.

When we look at Robin Williams' life, he brought laughter and happiness to just about all of us.  And he worked at dealing with the things that demonized him.  When we see video of Mr. Williams doing shows for troops in combat areas or visiting childrens' wards, it's obvious those times weren't just for show but came from the heart.  The kind of heart we'd like to think had a connection with God.

"The greatest enemy of human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation." -- Charles Spurgeon

That's a sobering thought.  Especially when we realize that what in English is "salvation", is sometimes a word pointing to deliverance.  Grace and mercy have more to do with both salvation and deliverance than our own efforts could ever possibly have.  A lot of those negative comments about Robin's choice may just come out of the guilty realization that most of us didn't pray for him when he was alive.  And we think of the doctrine that we can't do so, after death.  But I'll throw out a thought.  That doctrine relies on the fact that we're in time and suggests the dead are still limited by time.  But God has no such limitation.  He's both eternal and in time.  So, here's my prayer for Robin Williams:

"Lord, I may have prayed for Robin Williams when he was alive, but I don't recall doing that.  So, I'll make up for that, now.  Thank you for Robin's life.  He was a gift to all of us from You.  I'd like to think he developed a relationship with You, but I don't know that.  You're in eternity, control everything, so I'll ask for a moment in his earthly life when he fully connected with You, God.  I know this prayer is late, but You have the capability to resequence it in the order of things, so that it's not late.  I really would love to have Robin Williams as my brother in Christ.  Your will be done, in Jesus name.  Amen."

I doubt God would be unhappy with one prayer for a soul coming to Him, even if the prayer is late. God is in eternity and omnipotent.  So, He can do with it what He wants.  And we've re-established our desire for souls.  What I know of God, even if the prayer really doesn't fit in with how He does things, He has to be pleased with the heart behind the prayer.  If the prayer does mean something, we've made a difference.

Our condolences to Robin Williams' family.  And here's hoping he's done with depression and anxiety, instead busy giving God a good laugh.

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