No Top Tuesdays today. Instead, a book review! (This review will have spoilers.)
Title: The Old Man And The Sea (our last literature book for the school year).
Author: Ernest Hemingway.
Synopsis: An old man goes out to sea to catch a fish.
My rating: 5/10 stars.
My thoughts: I can't even split this review into good and bad things.... There were, of course, a few bad things... a couple swear words. That's about it.
Ernest Hemingway's writing style did amaze me, though. It's so simple and short. I really liked that.
That's about the only good thing I can say about the book because I didn't enjoy it. Maybe it was because my mom hates it. Maybe it's because I listened to it with her years and years ago when she had to read it for a book club. Maybe it's because of the plot.... It's so simple. A man goes out to catch a fish. He catches a fish. Sharks eat the fish. He comes home.
We were challenged to find allegory and hidden meaning behind every little thing in the book (which, personally, I hate doing. Maybe Ernest Hemingway meant it to be a book about a man and a fish!)
Anyway, I did the assignment and found an allegory. What's amazing about it is that everything I have been struggling through and learning the past six months (in church, youth group, and Sunday school) all tied into the allegory that I found. Isn't that amazing? I love it when that happens. So, while this allegory is completely true, I think I could have just as easily found it by reading Ecclesiastes (which my Sunday school just finished studying) than by reading The Old Man And The Sea.
Santiago (the Old Man)'s journey could mean that people chase after something all their lives but once attained, it is lost again (for Santiago, he chased this huge fish out to sea, only to have it eaten by sharks). Ecclesiastes 5: 11-15 puts it this way:
"As good increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?
The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.
I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him.
Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand."
I think this is true. People who are not living with Jesus, people who don't know the hope that he inspires, go on with their monotonous daily lives, not knowing that there is more! There is much more to life than getting up, eating breakfast, going to work, coming home again, going to bed, and repeating that day after day.
People can amass lots of things, or they can become famous, or they can have a great job or family or salary or whatever.... They have the "big fish" but it is all meaningless. When they die, they can't take their riches and job and family with them. When they die, they go to hell and suffer eternal separation from God. To me that's the worst part. When I was thirteen I decided to take my parent's faith as my own. For a while I lived for God because I wanted to go to heaven and be perfect. I wanted heaven for what it would do for ME. But now, I want to go to heaven to be with my Lord. I don't want to be eternally separated from him! That would be horrible!
Revelation 21: 1-8 paints a good picture of what hell (and a bit of heaven) will be like:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'
He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'
He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all the liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.'"
That sounds pretty hopeless doesn't it?
But there is hope. Jesus came to earth - he left his perfect heaven and his perfect father - just to save me and just to save you. They hammered nails through his hands and feet into a piece of wood. And when he died, he took every single last sin, however big or small, of every single person past, present, and future, onto himself. Just imagine that. Imagine every little white lie you've told. Now imagine every little white lie that everyone else that has lived in the past 2000 years has told. Jesus took all of those little white lies on himself - plus all the other sins! - and he went to hell and back. Do you know why he did that?
Because he LOVES us. He loves us so much that he was willing to suffer unimaginable pain. For us! And we don't even deserve it! That's where amazing grace comes in:
"For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world thought him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
This is the verdict: Light has some into the world, but men love darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
John 3: 16-21."
Jesus died for us so that we can go to heaven to be with him, but it is so much more than just saying the prayer and going to church every week.
Matthew 28: 18-20 says:
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to every everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"
And Acts 1:7-8 says:
"He (Jesus) said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'"
That's what Jesus said right before he was taken up into heaven. He wants us to go proclaim his kingdom! He wants us to share our hope! Not just keep it to ourselves. He doesn't just want us to proclaim his kingdom, he expects it. "Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations." Of course, not all of us are called to be the next Paul, travelling all over the world, being foreign missionaries. There are many ways to spread the gospel right at home. In fact, I think I'm doing it right now.
There is a cost to following Jesus. Just read this story at the end of Luke 9:
"As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.'
Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'
He said to another man, 'Follow me.'
But the man replied, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.'
Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'
Still another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.'
Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'"
You may be thinking that Jesus is being a little harsh... After all, burying your father and saying goodbye to your family aren't bad things. They aren't sins. But Jesus' point is that if you put those things above him, then they are wrong. Because Jesus should be number one in our lives. Anything could be bad (even if it's good in our eyes) if we are putting it above our love and worship of God.
We need to live our lives according to his will.
Philippians 4:8 says:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
For me, this goes hand in hand with putting God first and living life according to his will.
Last year, I watched a lot of videos on youtube.... I would watch videos from Ellen DeGeneres' channel and I would watch a lot of Kids/Teens/Elders/Youtubers React (which is a youtube show where two brothers show videos to the groups of people afore mentioned and capture their reactions on tape). Now.... Ellen's videos - though funny - aren't always the cleanest... She makes a lot of raunchy jokes. The React videos were cleaner... but I began to become obsessed with them. I couldn't WAIT to go online and start watching them and I couldn't WAIT for the next one to come out. Which video would they show next??? Who would have the best reaction???? And, though they were a bit cleaner than Ellen, there was still a good bit of swearing and inappropriate content (both from the Reactors and the videos that were shown).
I was really struggling with this near the beginning of this year. I realized that the things I was watching weren't true, right, noble, and (most of all) pure. I didn't want to keep filling my head with this garbage - God wouldn't want it. And so, even though I enjoyed watching these videos immensely (they were funny! And I love a good laugh) I made the decision to cut them out of my life. I think I've only watched one or two Ellen videos since then (and part of an episode on TV... because she was interviewing Harry Connick Jr. And I LOVE him. Plus they are hilarious - and pretty clean - when they are together. They quibble).
Then my mom and I started watching Friends..... Not only was that the most impure show I have EVER seen, it kept me up way later than I should have.
So, more recently (in the past two months) we have stopped watching Friends (and other sitcoms).
There are still impure things that I see (I think of Elementary... and even 'good' shows like Doctor Who) and think about. I'm not perfect. There's always going to be sin in my life. The only way for me to be completely cured is to die and go to heaven. But I can try and do my best to honor God. He will always forgive me when I mess up. (King Manasseh from the book of Judges did so much evil in the eyes of the Lord, that God had the Assyrians stick a ring in his nose and drag him away. While he was captured, he repented, and - even though he had worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth - God forgave him. God loved Manasseh, even though he did evil).
Bringing this back to The Old Man And The Sea.... Unlike Santiago and the people in this world who are going after the "big meaningless fish," I have meaning in my life.
I'm trying to live for my Lord and savior. It gives me great purpose and infinitely more satisfaction than those filler things (like Ellen, Friends, and - even more recently - bookshelf tour videos and books themselves) which were trying to take the place of God. It really does. I feel so much satisfaction writing this blog post about God - the savior of the universe! - than I do writing about Doctor Who or Star Trek or any of the other things I normally post about on Tuesdays....
Proverbs 3: 7-8 says:
"Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones."
Life is meaningless, like chasing after the "big fish" (or, as Ecclesiastes says many times, "like chasing after the wind." You can't catch the wind!). But with God, there is purpose and meaning to life.
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
Ecclesiastes 12: 13.