“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 during the party that was The Roaring 20s. F. Scott Fitzgerald gained world-wide fame with its highest accolades from the book, but it didn’t happen in his lifetime. Like his protagonist, Jay Gatsby, he continuously sought to reinvent himself as more important than his perceived past. He never accomplished that feat in his own mind and sadly drank himself to death at 44. Like Gatsby, no party was enough to overcome his loneliness and he couldn’t get drunk enough to forget it.
It’s hard for us to understand eternal life because every day we live is one less than we have. Death is always before us, and most frightening, we never know when our last day will arrive. When we are young, we think we are bulletproof and life seems like it will never end. Inevitably the day comes when we wake up one morning and realizes that the days ahead are surely fewer than those behind. It is then we assess most carefully the meaning and value of our life.
The so-called midlife crisis is actually a crisis of faith.
St Augustine described it this way
But as concerning these days which we are passing now, the Apostle says, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Are not these days indeed evil which we spend in this corruptible flesh, in or under so heavy a load of the corruptible body, amid so great temptations, amid so great difficulties, where there is but false pleasure, no security of joy, a tormenting fear, a greedy covetousness, a withering sadness? Lo, what evil days! yet no one is willing to end these same evil days, and hence men earnestly pray God that they may live long. Yet what is it to live long, but to be long tormented? What is it to live long, but to add evil days to evil l days?
When boys are growing up, it is as if days are being added to them; whereas they do not know that they are being diminished; and their very reckoning is false. For as we grow in up, the number of our days rather diminishes than increases. Appoint for any man at his birth, for instance, eighty years; every day he lives, he diminishes somewhat of that sum. Yet silly men rejoice at the oft-recurring birthdays, both of themselves and their children. O sensible man! If the wine in thy bottle is diminished, thou art sad; days art thou losing, and art thou glad? These days then are evil; and so much the more evil, in that they are loved. This world is so alluring, that no one is willing to finish a life of sorrow.
Augustine was discussing a passage in Ephesians where Paul describes ours days as “evil”. It helps if we take a step back and try to see the big picture. From the day we are born to the day we die there’s a finite amount of time, and as Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards“. We try to make sense of it as we go and in the beginning, when we think it’s all ahead of us, it’s one big party. When we’ve gone long enough to stop and look back, we get sad if it seems like a waste. That’s when we have a choice. We either amp-up the party and try to drown our fear in worldly pleasure or we shift gears and try to live meaningfully.
Here is Paul’s counsel:
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
3-4 Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.
5 You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.
6-7 Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don’t even hang around people like that.
8-10 You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.
11-16 Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
17 Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
18-20 Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:1-20)
The cure to the crisis of faith is gratitude. A true understanding of God leads to thankfulness which will permeate every aspect of your life. When we see life as a gift we can then see all of the opportunity. Our salvation was never meant to keep us out of hell.
It was meant to restore the life God intended for you all along.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.